Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Chair Ribbons

We used ribbons as our table runners, and I thought it would be fun to use them on our chairs, too, to jazz them up!

This project was insanely easy!  All I did was cut lengths of ribbons!

I wound them around paper towel tubes to keep them from getting wrinkled, and put them in labeled ziploc bags for safekeeping.  The set-up folks tied them onto the chairs.

Having special chairs made us feel special and added to the decor.

Chair ribbons for the bride and groom

Bonnie Projects

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I dyed my wedding reception dress!

Eeek, I did it!  After months of agonizing (I started thinking about this in October) over whether it would ruin the dress, I finally decided to go ahead and dye my wedding reception dress.

I loved the style, the fit, the pockets - everything!  But it's simply inappropriate to wear an ivory cocktail dress to many events.  A cocktail dress would be great for a bridal shower or wedding, but you'll be talked about mercilessly ("bless her heart"), if you show up in ivory.

So I decided to go for it!

The tag indicated that the dress was polyester, with some silk on just the flower doodads.  Polyester is infamous for not taking dye very well, especially RIT.  Jacquard Products (, 800-442-0455.) offers a special polyester dye, called iDye Poly, so I went with that.  They also have awesome detailed instructions for first-timers.

I chose iDye Poly Blue dye - I figured if it was super light, a dingy medium, or the color shifted (sometimes you get a neighboring color instead of what you bargained for), I would still be OK.  I thought baby blue, purple, or turquoise green were all OK with me.  Also, the polyester dyes only come in 8 colors, so there weren't many options.


The directions say to simmer your garment on the stove throughout the dye process.  I was worried the polyester would melt, but my engineer Dad assured me it would need to be around 600 for that to happen.  Water boils at 212, so I was good to go.

To remove any dirt and oils from the dress (dye won't take to dirty fabric), I washed it in a Professional Textile Detergent that I ordered from Dharma Trading the last time I dyed stuff.  I took it out of the washer before the final spin cycle so it would be fully saturated - ready for the dye bath.

Meanwhile, I brought water to a boil on the stove.  They recommend not using your dye cookware for food afterwards, so instead of sacrificing one of our nice pots, I picked up a giant one for $20 at our Korean grocery store.  This was a double bonus since I also got fresh BiBimBop for dinner.  I did sacrifice some tongs.  I also suggest trying a thrift store, but ours didn't have anything as big as the vat I required.

I made sure to cover the counters and backsplash well so I wouldn't have a blue disaster in my kitchen.

Once boiling, I added the color packet (super easy, it just dissolves and it zero-mess) and the color intensifier (comes in the kit with the dye) to the water.

I cut a flower off the dress and swished it in the dye to see what would happen.  This entire time, I had in my head that the dress would turn out light blue.  Silly Bonnie, this is iDye Poly!  The material was definitely loving the dye.

So I took a deep breath and threw the dress in!  The directions said to boil it for 30-60 minutes, so I set the timer.  After five minutes, it was already indigo!  I gave it 30 minutes anyways, but not any longer because my arm was killing me (you're supposed to constantly swirl and swish it around for even dyeing).

By this time Tommy was home and was a little frightened by his mad scientist of a wife (you know, dancing and stirring and talking a mile a minute)!  He talked me out of using our kitchen sink to drain the dye, and lovingly lugged the giant steaming pot down to the basement and drained it in the utility sink.

It was a good call on his part, because the sink is definitely blue now.  It wasn't pretty before, so it's not a disaster, but be warned!  At this point, the dress looked purple!

I washed the dress in regular detergent in the washing machine, and hung it to dry.  It still smelled like dye, so I ran it through a second time.

I pressed it while wet to get it looking normal again.  Those tucks and folds were a total pain, and it took almost two hours to get it normal-looking again.

The color isn't as vibrant as when I was in the midst of dyeing, but I think it's lovely.

I had psyched myself up for this project to be a disaster, but I really couldn't be happier with the results!  I didn't expect this exact shade of blue, but I like it. 

So there you go, a successfully dyed polyester wedding reception dress, wearable for years to come for all sorts of events!
I immediately wore it to a wedding!  Is it good luck for a couple to wear their wedding attire to other weddings?

Tommy in his wedding suit, and me in my reception dress, now dyed blue!

I'm linking up over on East Coast Creative's Upcycle Week!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Quilt from upcycled dress shirts

This post has been two years in the making, and it's a doozy!!!  To lessen the suspense, here's the final product!

Tommy has been having this issue where he manages to tear holes in the elbows of his work shirts.  The first one or two, we joked about how the shirts must be old or his "big muscles" were tearing them up, but now the count is up to 19 shirts (!!!), and it's not an anomaly anymore.  I've come up with a preventative solution, but that's another post.

Oh, and they all coordinate nicely because 99% of his wardrobe has blue stripes!

My love of recycling and quilting, and his apparent love of all things with blue stripes inspired me to make a quilt from all these recycled work shirts.  I meant to have it done in time for his birthday in March 2011, buuuttt that didn't quite happen.  As I finalize this post, I've been working on the quilt for over two years, and I finally have it done by his 2013 birthday.

I searched around online for neat ideas to do with old shirts, and hit gold with a series of posts on The Cut Cloth and Knitting in the Dark.

Shirt Stripes Inspiration Quilt, from Knitting in the Dark

I wanted to start with fabric that behaved as store-bought as possible, so before doing anything else I laundered the shirts.  Then I cut them apart into two fronts, two sleeves, and one back, and cut off all the seams and buttons (remember how we used them on my wedding dress?).  To make the fabric more manageable and keep it from stretching while working with it, I heavily starched all the pieces.

I chose to use three sizes of squares, meaning I would need three sizes of triangles to comprise the squares.  I also made the executive decision that I would match up the stripes (warning - this is extremely time consuming!!!).  I did some quick math and decided to make 10.5", 7", and 3.5" finished squares.  I also calculated the ratio between the S/M/L blocks in my inspiration quilt (typical math nerd behavior), so I could be sure I was staying relatively on track while cutting everything out.

Cutting all the triangles took a VERY LONG TIME.  I bought a triangle template which was quite helpful, but it was still very labor-intensive to line up the stripes and make all the cuts (In the quilting world they call this "fussy cutting").  I made sets of four matching triangles which would later become complete squares.  Having matching triangles makes the stripes turn into concentric squares.

I cut all the triangles slightly larger than necessary, with the plan of trimming them down to size and squaring them up later in the process.

cut four triangles so the stripes are identical on each
four identical triangles
I began sewing by making half-squares.  I painstakingly matched up the stripes and sewed them together with scant-quarter-inch seams.  Then I pressed the seams open.  This helps the quilt lay flat later, and helps when sewing more pieces together.  Next I sewed the half-squares together to make the complete block.  This was more difficult, because for this step there were two sets of stripes (going in opposite directions) that needed to match up.  Through trial and error, I discovered the best way was to start in the middle and sew outward (and just suck it up and make the two seams).  Again, I pressed the seams open.

sew right sides together, then press seams open

match up new triangles
match up both sets of stripes

sew together, then press flat.  See how the stripes make concentric squares?
Once all the blocks were sewn, I cut them to size and squared them up.  The square template I bought was marvelous for this, and I highly recommend getting one!  I was also thrilled with my new rotary cutter I bought to replace the cheapo one from my college days.  There is definitely something to be said about quality!!!

This is also where I did some quality control.  By this point, I'd realized the dozens of hours I put into the project, and wanted the end product to be as nice as possible.  I threw out all the blocks that had stains, mismatched seams, worn places, or were otherwise of poor quality.  It didn't like losing fabric and work, but I knew I'd be happier in the end.

My next step was laying out all the pieces in an aesthetically pleasing manner.  As with all my projects, there was plenty of trial and error here, but I finally decided on a good arrangement.  To keep it short, I threw all the blocks out randomly on my living room floor, then straightened them up so they all fit together.  Then I photographed it to see all the colors and shades in a small area (the LCD screen on my camera), and rearranged blocks.  I repeated this until I was happy with the size and shape of the quilt, and with the controlled randomness of the colors and block sizes.

Because the blocks were varying sizes arranged randomly, sewing the blocks together was more challenging than with a basic quilt where you first make rows then sew the rows together.  To keep my sanity, I just worked one bit at a time, and kept laying my finished parts back down to see what should come next.  I had to sew a lot of inside corners, and I ended up having to rip out a seam or twenty in the process to get everything to lay flat.  Phew!

inside seams like this scare quilters!!!
Finally, I completed the top!

I used a 40% off coupon at JoAnn's for the backing, which was a simple quilter's cotton.  It took three panels across to make it large enough.

Then I sent it to Texas, to my Mom's friend Lawana Parks, owner of Lake Area Quilts in Jasper, TX, who does excellent quilting work.  I didn't hear from her for a really long time, and was beginning to worry the quilt had gotten lost in the mail.  Finally, she called.  "Bonnie!!!  I don't know how to quilt this... I don't even know how to start!"  It turns out that quilting is inherently not manly, and this manly quilt I sent had completely stumped her!  She sent me pages and pages of quilting options, and together we decided to go with a golfing theme.

Golf Electric Quilt Pattern
The stripes, structure, and maleness of the shirt stripes quilt made it very difficult to pick a good quilting pattern.  However, the loopiness of the golf pattern contrasted well with the stripes, and Tommy loves golf!  Perfect!  I got it back not even a week later, flat as can be!  (One of the biggest goals in making a quilt is having it lay flat once it's all said and done)

if you look closely, you can see a golf club and a tee with a golf ball on top!
I finished it up by sewing on a small binding.  For this, I cut 2.25" strips, and sewed them end-to-end with bias edges to make a continuous ribbon of binding.  I pressed all those seams open, then pressed the binding in half longways.  To attach the binding, including doing the corners and finishing it properly, this gal Heather has a great tutorial.  My Mom has an even easier way to finish though - and this site has an easy tutorial on finishing continuous binding.

sew binding to front side of quilt with sewing machine
I wrapped the binding to the back of the quilt and hand stitched it in place.

I want to warn my readers that this quilt was far more challenging than I had anticipated.  The last 5 quilts I've made were crib size.  I'm not sure why this surprised me, but this much larger one took SO MUCH LONGER!  It was also difficult to work with fussy cuts, triangles, and matched stripes, as well as recycled fabric.  If you're going to attempt this project, please be ready to spend 100+ hours working on it.

Here's a few more detail shots!

Tommy loves the quilt and I'm thrilled with how it turned out!!!  Snuggling up with it is the next best thing to snuggling up with him.

This project is one of the most interesting projects I've done, and I'm so happy about the quality!  Thus, I'm submitting it to a Pinterest Challenge link-up and Sew-vivor!

Sisters Share It All: Pinterest Challenge

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Ribbon Table Runners

Worried that our tables would look a little plain with just the basic navy tablecloths, I decided to add runners.  I didn't want just any runner though, I wanted them to be kind of cool!  I ended up using lengths of coral ribbon to mimic a table runner.

My Mom found huge 50 yard rolls of satin ribbon for $5 each in the garment district of Los Angeles.  Score!

I spent a evening in front of Say Yes to the Dress cutting them all the desired length.  I wanted them to hang over the table edges, but not drag the floor, so I added five feet to the diameter of each table.  For example, on a 60" table (five feet), I added another five feet, and cut ten-foot lengths of ribbon.

Each table got five or six mismatched ribbons, depending on how they all looked together.  I wrapped the cut lengths around paper towel tubes so they wouldn't get wrinkled, and put them in individual ziploc bags labeled with the table size.  That way my wedding set-up folks could easily get them on the correct tables.

They were secured with double-stick tape for good measure.

I just love how bright and whimsical they turned out!

Any guesses on what color the ribbons on my Christmas gifts were this year?  You better believe those ribbons are getting recycled!

Pssst!  Did you see the new tab up top?  I finally have an "about me" page!