The (Almost) Perfect Pair

Pattern: Burda Style 7447 Misses Pants
Fabric: Organic Cotton Twill in Cool River
Cost: $25

To say I've been trying to make suitable work pants for a while would be an understatement. My first attempt was almost four years ago, when I undertook Vogue 1051. It would have been my first welt pocket, my first fly front, and my first pair of pants. Needless to say, it did not work out. 

Fast forward a few years, and I was still desperately in need of a good trouser pant. I had read Sunni's account of making Burda Style 7447, I had seen the pattern reviews, and I had bought both the pattern and the fabric. I was also eager to make a pattern other than the Colette Clover, just to see if it would solve some of my fit issues and give me a fresh perspective. It was time to give this a go.

Taking what I knew from my previous pairs and the reviews I read online, I cut one size down but ended up sewing with 3/8" seam allowances through the legs after basting them together to try on (I think the fit would be perfect in a fabric with a little bit of stretch). I also took almost two inches out of the center back waistband and seat - clearly I am quite pear-shaped. In the end the fit was pretty spot on with just those little changes. Quite amazing!

By this point, I really feel like I'm nailing down all my details for pants construction to create 'my formula.' I took lots of pictures of the in-progress work, so hopefully I can share that with you in one form or another at some point. Below are some of the details.

I think I've really got the zipper thing down, but my first attempt at welt pockets on pants was just so-so. Practice practice practice! Here are some shots of the back. Can't tell if the back is supposed to be this wrinkly to allow movement, or if it needs some more help here...

I'm quite happy with this first pair, and already have fabric for a second. Yay for making my pants dreams finally come true!

Hot Day Woven Tee

Pattern: New Look 6217 Kimono Tee
Fabric: remnant silk
Cost: $5

This year and last I have once again been working on making woven tops. There are a range of good patterns out there I have tried: the Stella Blouse, Scout Tee, and BurdaStyle's Printed Blouse. At first try-on, they fit great, but after a day of wear I always encounter the same problem - tightness and chaffing at the underarm. Is there such a thing as an armpit adjustment?! The one exception to this rule is the Archer, which is my comfy weekend go-to. As for the others, I'm afraid to say they may have to go - as they are just unwearable as is.

Before I re-draft my patterns for better underarm fit, I decided to take a break and go for something I knew would fit: New Look 6217 Kimono Tee. There are a ton of great patterns like this out there, but for $4.29 this pattern included the tee, a kimono jacket, a skirt, and simple pants. I'm very interested in making the kimono jacket, too, if I get a chance.

For the tee, it's a simple, two-piece top, and in my opinion does just a good of a job as  fancier 'with sleeves' woven tee. This one is cut from a bright silk remnant I got on sale at Stone Mountain. It is sturdy enough that I didn't have too much trouble with shifting or disintegrating during cutting and sewing. To hide any raw edges, the side and shoulder seams are french seamed, which is really the only way to finish a top like this, IMO.

The longest part of this project are the hems - bottom, sleeves, and top opening. I usually use bias tape, but this fabric was too lightweight and drapey from my usual cotton tape, and I had run out of fabric to make self-bias. However, somewhere online I read a tutorial for doing a narrow hem using a row of stitching to guide the fabric, and after some fiddling around I found that putting in two rows of stitching (one for each fold on the narrow hem) worked great. I will definitely be using that technique again!

You'll also notice that the original top doesn't have a pleat at the neckline. After some creative cutting to fit my pattern on my little scrap of fabric, I found that the neckline gaped horribly. A little pleat easily solved this, and is actually a rather cute detail for a rather simple top.

Thank god for easy projects!

Faux Paneled Doors

Finishing up my week of bedroom updates, I am excited to share with you my faux paneled doors. This is a great project because it can be tackled in one day, doesn't require any power tools, and makes a BIG DIFFERENCE. This is a door hack that you may have seen floating around the internets, and this is my (cheaper) take.

Some people use expensive door kits to convert regular builder doors into faux-paneled doors. Other people buy crown moulding and meter the corners to create frames. But what I ended up doing is buying canvas stretcher bars, the wooden frames that artists use to stretch their canvas over. They're great because they come in a whole range of sizes, snap together at the corners without the need for a metering saw or nails, and are relatively cheap. Here's how to attach them to your door:

Here's the full pic of the finished door. I splurged on some crystal door knobs from Amazon because we only have two interior doors in the whole house. The panels have now held up for 10+ months.

OK, next week I promise to get back to some clothes-making. It's so nice to have all this stuff out of the way so I can get back to sewing!

Wardrobe Building - DIY Glass Lights!

As I wrote about earlier, this month has been filled with furniture, construction, and home improvement! While it didn't all go smoothly, it was definitely worth it. We now have a re-done, custom closet along with bedside tables and storage. To go along with our new bedside setup, we needed new lighting, so that's what I wanted to share with you today.

Now, once we had made it through just about everything, hanging the lights was the final fiasco. To start off, we bought two Ikea Hektar wall lights. For $15 a piece, they're actually really cute! However, for $15 a piece, they are also incredibly dim. The label said it will only accommodate a 7W CFL (40W tungsten) bulb, which isn't much light at all. (FYI all of Ikea's wall lights are this way). Good thing I plugged them in to check before we mounted them to the wall!

Not wanting to install built-in lighting (or hire an electrician), I started doing some serious shopping around for a plug-in option. Wall mounted ones are hard to find, but after some searching, bedside pendant lights seemed like a good option. I found some really cute ones on the web and on Etsy, but I was starting to get that feeling that said, I could make that for half the price! Sometimes this DIY lifestyle is killing me...

Lucky for me, in this case DIY pendant lighting was actually the easiest part of the project. I'll save you the research, the back-and-forth, and the photoshop mock-up and skip to the chase: all you have to do is buy a $7 glass bulb cover and screw it in to an $8 Ikea light kit (lightbulb and hanging hooks included).

You just screw off that little bottom part, sandwich the glass light cover in between, and screw back in the bottom part so it holds the glass in place.

Now, I promised not to sugar coat things, so you do have to go sit in Ikea traffic, make a trip to Home Depot, and hang the darn thing from the ceiling, but the actual assembly is so simple that I feel bad even calling it a DIY. Maybe I'll just refer to it as an AIY - assemble it yourself. Regardless, I couldn't believe I saved all this money on virtually the same product! There's some on Etsy that I was eyeing that looked even more similar, but I'm not going to tell you to knock off an Etsy product...

And here they are all installed in the room! Someday it would be great to heave actual hardwired lights, but for now I'm happy with my $30 hack.

Wardrobe Building

If things have been a bit quiet around here lately, it's because I've been vigorously working on my wardrobe IRL. And in this case, I don't mean the actual clothes, but rather the furniture and structures used to store them... the wardrobe, the closet, the dressers. (Sorry if I tricked you into reading a non-sewing post. If this bores you, you can stop reading now.) But I figure if I'm going to spend all this time to make my clothes, I better have a beautiful/functional place to put them! That, and I've become apartment-obsessed lately.

Updating our closet and installing built-in storage on either side of the bed has been on our to-do list since day one of moving in (almost ten months ago!). After tackling the most immediate needs in other parts of the apartment (followed by a much-needed break), we finally decided this month to take on the "wardrobe" projects.

For the closet, a little rearranging was in order. There was an awkward shelf on one side, only one real clothing rod, and shelves that we had had to remove to fit all our stuff. For the project, we budgeted a weekend for buying supplies/prep and another weekend for the actual construction. The project wasn't particularly complicated - moving a plywood divider "wall," reinstalling upper shelving, and hanging more clothing rods - but from our experience over the last year we knew that we should always budget more time than we thought it would take. Because this was an especially disruptive project (clothing ALL OVER the living room), it was good to play it on the safe side. And we actually finished in time to go out for drinks Sunday night! Check out the progress, below:

Yes, the closet still needs a door, which we've purchased from salvage, but that's for another day...
While it's still just a packed closet, the updates to the design, along with a fresh coat of paint, have really made this space a lot more functional for us. Gone are the days when my jackets, pajamas, and even hand-made dresses (!) get shoved on shelves. Some of my favorite features include how we handled that "awkward corner" in the back of the closet, and the budget-friendly pants hangers (and accompanying support brackets and rods) from Ikea. It is SO NICE to have everything hanging and organized.

Here's some more mid-action shots:

Thank god for that ROP construction class in high school!
Here's Mr. K using my bread knife to saw through some wood because we didn't have the right saw :/
The living room disaster zone
It was a long project, and I'm so glad it's finally done!


For the second project, we wanted to add some additional storage on either side of the bed to fit even more clothes, especially sweaters and socks and the like (what can I say, I have a lot of clothes!). We did not budget/plan a set amount of time for this project, and so of course it ended up taking longer than we assumed and being far more exhausting.

We were also super picky - we wanted our built-ins to serve double-duty as bedside tables, provide space for lighting, match each other, and fit our space and height requirements. After considering some seriously custom (and time-consuming) self-made options and then looking all over Craigslist for something second-hand that might work, we settled on Ikea solid wood built-in cabinets (Ivar) and standing dressers (Tarva). I'm not a big fan of Ikea furniture both because of the quality of construction and the immediately recognizable "Ikea" look, but in this case it was the best solution that was within our budget. The solid wood (albeit very soft) made me feel a little bit better as well.

Here are the final results:

To visually tie the cabinet and dresser together, we used the same hardware on both the cabinets and the drawers, and painted all the pieces the same color as our main walls (Sherwin Williams Snow White - which is actually a light grey). On the drawers, I puttied up the holes where the knobs should have gone and installed the drawer pulls down the center, which I scored on Amazon for $27 total after some shopping around. For the tabletops, we left the wood exposed (inspired by Young House Love), giving them a few coats of stain to seal and darken them.

The whole process took almost two weeks, including some week-day nights for painting. The individual parts of the four furniture pieces had to be painted in rotation on our small patio (photo below), and we definitely learned that it can take a few days for the paint to dry all. the. way. The final installation day was a good ten hours, including several smaller set-backs and unanticipated challenges (no studs for a 32-inch span in the wall? paint STILL sticking after a week of drying? not enough screws in the right size?!). The lighting was another challenge, but I hope to share the final results of that with you later this week.

In the end, my Ikea construction skills could probably still use a bit of work, but we're very happy with these pieces. They fit all our stuff, provide lots of bedside space, and don't look too shabby, either!

After about a month's worth of work, we're a little burned out but very happy with our new closet and bedroom organization. And getting out of bed in the morning is so much easier without tripping over mismatched shelving and filing cabinets shoved next to the bed!

Lessons Learned for Home DIY (and Crafting in General)
While I'm continually improving my DIY home-improvement skills, the biggest lesson I learned from our latest project was about managing expectations - and about the deceptive power of the internet. Too often, I read on blogs about "easy" home makeovers - quick Ikea updates, easy lighting solutions, and transformations involving nothing but a coat of paint and some imagination. From my experience, it was never that easy.

Maybe it's because I'm just not very good at these things yet (at one point we used a bread knife as a saw, for crying out loud), but I bet most people who have tried their hand at some basic home updates will agree that it's hard. Painting untreated furniture pieces requires several coats over several days. Planning what pieces to buy, measuring out the specs, researching installation options, and agreeing on a style took weeks of planning. And putting together simple 'do-it-yourself' Ikea furniture along with installing it on the wall ended with one of us as a zombie and the other throwing a mini tantrum (I'll let you guess who).

The point of me writing this isn't to complain (I love the final results!), but rather to think about how we, the blogging community, talk about our craft and our projects on our blogs. Too often have I written that I "whipped up" a little top, or "just modified" a collar, when really these things took hours of my time. Granted, I love sewing much more than I love painting, but the underlying truth is that we put a lot of effort into our crafts, and even the simplest projects take time and skill (or at least some practice). Trying a new DIY craft has taught me the value of this, and more respect for the process of creation. There are many wonderful sewing bloggers out there who share their "realness," and I appreciate that now more than ever! And then there's always Pinterest Fail! to remind me that things aren't always as they seem online ;)

Over the next few days I'll share with you a couple of DIY things from this project that I think you crafty people might like. But I won't lie, tackling a new skill takes time!