Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The World's Easiest (and Comfiest!) Pencil Skirt

As I have said before, I thoroughly enjoy a good pencil skirt. And as a graduate student, knowing that very soon I'll be conducting assessments and providing therapy in a professional setting, I am trying to build up my wardrobe of pencil skirts and other professional attire. However, I am also lazy and like to be comfortable. Thankfully, a juxtaposition of those two things is possible! Also very easy. (Easy is good, cause again: lazy.)

This skirt was inspired by this post here, from one of my favorite blogs, Merrick's Art.



Materials Needed
Approximately 3/4 yard - 1 yard knit fabric (depends on your size)
Coordinating thread
Double needle (optional)

 1. Trace an existing skirt or use an existing sloper

I, luckily, had a pencil skirt sitting around that was just perfect for this, that I got last spring at TJ Maxx, aka the absolute best store ever. If you don't have a pencil skirt that fits you well, you can use a sloper. (You can look at my other pencil skirt post where I provide a link to a good sloper tutorial, if you'd like.) The reason that this skirt works perfectly is that it's slightly stretchy, just like the one this new one. And it fits very comfortably.


You could trace it right onto the fabric if you'd like, but I would eventually like to make six or seven million more of this skirt, so I went ahead and created this pattern piece for future use.\


You can see I've labeled the direction of the stretch (across our hips, not up and down) and have made a tentative outline of where the waistband hits. That way I can modify the width of the waistband in future skirts.

2. Cut out two pieces with the new fabric

Place your pattern piece on your knit fabric, folded in half, and cut out around the pattern piece. Make sure to add seam allowance if you didn't include it in your pattern piece.


In order to make sure your skirt is exactly symmetrical, you could cut out two pieces on the fold, but I don't care that much. Plus I was using a remnant so my surface area was somewhat limited.

3. Place pieces right side together and sew up side seams

Pin the two pieces together and sew as shown. You can use a straight stitch if your fabric doesn't stretch lengthwise. If, however, you are using a four-way stretch, you're better off using a zigzag stitch just in case stretching happens. That way the stitches won't break.


4. Fold down and sew waistband

I wanted my waistband to be about two inches wide, so I folded down the top of my skirt one inch, and then folded that over again about two inches. I didn't measure or anything, just eyeballed it until I liked where it was. Then I pinned it in place like below and pressed with a hot iron.


Remember, the skirt is still wrong-side-out. Now we have to stitch the waistband down. Since this part of the skirt will definitely stretch, we need to use a stitch that also stretches. You can definitely use a zigzag stitch, but I think it looks more professional to use my double needle here. So. If you are going to use a double needle, turn the skirt right side out. Then, stitch carefully along the edge of your waistband. I say carefully because since your waistband is folded to the inside of your skirt, and you're working on the outside, you obviously can't see it. Instead, you'll have to feel where the edge of your waistband is as you sew along.

5. Sew the hem (optional)

If you want to, you can now hem the bottom of the skirt. I would again recommend using a double needle for this. I chose not to though, mostly because it was late and I wanted to go to bed. Totally up to you!

Either way, now you have an awesome, suuuuuper comfy skirt to wear anywhere and everywhere you want!




(If you're wondering, no, that is not my bed in the background. :) )

On a different note: I am currently packing up and preparing to move within the next two weeks. This move is a big one... 800 miles... so I am wondering if any of you stupendous and marvelous readers might have any hints about moving cross-country? I've rented a moving truck and will be driving there, and my finances are tight. So if you have any cheap but helpful moving tips I'd really appreciate if you left them in the comments!

Also, due to the move, stuff around here is going to quiet down a little (more than usual, anyway). I have one more post planned but then I probably won't be around for at least two weeks. But I hope that when I do come back, I will have some great new projects to show you guys! And if I do pick up any tips from the move, maybe I'll make a post about that too. :)

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Making a Small Zipper Pouch

Oh my goodness! Can I first say how excited and happy I am that so many people liked my coffee table re-do?! That was a really fun project (and the first time I've re-done a piece of furniture myself!) and I'm really glad that I got to share it with people :)

Today I am going to share with you a tutorial for creating a small, kind of boxy zippered pouch. I found the tutorial on Pinterest (of course!) and it's from Jedi Craft Girl. Her blog is great and she has lots of other tutorials, including lots of quilted things.

This zipper pouch would be great to store jewelry or other assorted goodies while you're traveling, as a mini "emergency kit" in the car with bandaids or feminine hygiene products and stuff, or as a pencil case for kids at school! Personally, I made this one for my mom to use as a cash bag for her jewelry stand at our hometown farmer's market. She picked out the materials and when I brought her by the fat quarters and told her "You can pick whatever colors you want"... I don't think that I have ever seen her so overwhelmed ;)

So let's begin!


So step one is to gather up our materials:


Outside fabric: two 9x6 1/2" rectangles (I used a fat quarter)
Lining fabric: two 9x6 1/2" rectangles (I used a remnant fabric)
Fusible interfacing: two 9x6 1/2" rectangles (sensing a pattern?)
Two 1 1/2 x 4" strips of either outside or lining fabric
Coordinating thread
Coordinating zipper
Rotary cutter, mat and ruler if you have them, otherwise scissors

1. Cut out your fabric



The purple flowery print is a fat quarter that I got from JoAnn's, and the light purple is the lining which was a remnant. I am pretty sure that if you wanted, you could use one fat quarter for the entire thing, outside plus lining. I didn't measure, but I think I had enough left over. Cut two rectangles of each fabric, which should measure 9 inches x 6 1/2 inches.


Also cut out your interfacing. 9x6 1/2"

2. Iron interfacing onto the backside of your outside fabric.

 Iron it nice and good, so that there are no bubbles and the edges are attached well. If you have interfacing that isn't iron-on, then I think you baste it in place... but I've never used that kind. Mine came with instructions so I'm guessing yours did too. Go with the instructions over what I say!

3. Cut a square out of the bottom corner of each piece

Cut out a piece which is 1 1/2" square. Note that at this point, either one of the long sides (not the short sides though, unless you want a tall pouch instead of a long one) can be the bottom. Just depends on your pattern and what way you want that to go.


Now they should look like this.


4. Add tabs to each side of the zipper

So, using either your lining fabric or your outside fabric, cut two short strips that measure 4 inches by 1 1/2 inches.  Now, a caution: I did this differently than she did and I like her way better. So you will possibly want to refer to her original tutorial for this part :)

Fold the tabs in half (short ways not long ways) and press. Then, fold each short end in 1/4" and press again. Then press the entire thing in half once more.


This is what they should look like after that. See how the ends are folded in.

Cut the metal ends off your zipper. Then, Sew the tab to the end of the zipper.



Do the other side too.


Should look like this. I stitched and backstitched over the teeth of the zipper a couple times so that they wouldn't come out.

At this point, she says there should be 1" of tab on each side of the zipper. I don't know if that's true of mine but I'd assume so.

5. Attach one side of the bag

Now we're getting to the good stuff!

Place one of your outside pieces face up. Place the zipper face down on top of it, so that the edge of the zipper aligns with the edge of the outside piece. (There will be excess fabric from the tabs sticking out the sides but fuhgeddaboutit for now.) 


Then, place one piece of your lining fabric face down on top of all that, again with the edge aligning with the edge of the zipper/edge of the outside fabric.


Pin it well along the zipper edge.



Attach your zipper foot, if you have one, and sew close to the teeth of the zipper. Don't sew the tab parts. Sew from the edge of your inside fabric to the other edge of your inside fabric. On mine, that means I sewed from one edge of the light purple to the other edge.





6. Trim all four sticking-out edges of the zipper tabs

I'm making this its own step because this is the part that I misunderstood in those directions and I wish that I had understood correctly. I don't have a picture of what it looks like done correctly, of course. In fact, from here on out any time you see zipper tabs in my pictures you can just pretend they aren't there! But you'll want to trip the edges that stick up from the top of what you just sewed, and also the ones that stick out from the sides of the bag.

Now,flip up what you've sewn so that you can see your zipper.

It looks like this (only yours won't have excess zipper tab!) Now, flip the zipper up (so it's facing upward) and iron well so that the side of the pouch stays down. Be careful not to melt the teeth!

7. Sew on the second side of the bag

Pretty much do the same thing you just did! Place one piece of outside fabric face up. Place the zipper face down on top of that and align the edges. Place a piece of inside fabric on top of that, face down. Align all edges, pin well and sew along the zipper teeth with your zipper foot.


8. Turn right sides up and press well

Woo! Now it's starting to actually look like something! Well, my zipper is a little crooked, but shhh. :)




9. Top stitch along both sides of the zipper

This both serves a functional purpose (the fabric won't catch the zipper) but it also looks nice, I think.

 Sew a nice straight line very close to the edge of your outside fabric. 

Now... dun dun dunnnn!

10. Sew the bag together

Fold the pieces of your bag so that all right sides of the same fabric are together. Right sides of your outside fabric are together, and right sides of your inside fabric are together.

 
At this point, make sure that your zipper is unzipped

Now, sew along the long sides. Don't sew around the corners! This means that you are going to make four seams. One at the bottom of each part of the bag (the bottom seam of the outside fabric and the bottom seam of the inside fabric) and one on each side. Sew over the zipper but be sure that both sides of the zipper are folded over to the same direction. 

Also, leave a hole of non-stitched edge on one side so that you can turn the bag right side out, like so:



Where my finger is pointing is where I left it open. My hole was too small for it to be easy to turn over, so I'd suggest leaving a space of at least 2 1/2" unsewn.

11. Fold the corners and sew straight

Now, pinch together the corners like this:

 Only push them all the way together. Then, sew a straight line from corner to corner. This boxes off the corners so that the bag will have a flat-ish bottom and will stand up fairly straight. Do this to all four corners.


 So you'd sew from where my fingers are pinching right across to the opposite corner.

12. Turn the bag inside out

Now your bag will look like this:
   So it's time to turn it right side out! Go to the hole you left unstitched, and pull everything through it!

 Here's a start...

 Almost there...

 Aha! Now, while the lining is sticking out like this, we can stitch the hole closed.


 Now, put the lining back inside the bag, and you're done!

 
Inside



Bottom
There you have it! A nice little bag to keep all your goodies in. You can iron it to get the wrinkles out (which I obviously haven't done yet), but mine is also wrinkly since my hole was too small. So the interfacing got a little bunched up. A good quick iron will fix that though.

Additionally, I don't like the way the zipper sticks up on mine and is rounded at the ends. That happened because I did the tabs wrong and didn't trim off enough, and then I ended up folding them weird. But either way, my mom loves her new money bag! And this pouch would work great for any number of other things.

Enjoy everyone! Let me know if you have any questions :)

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Yummy Noodle and Chicken Bake Dish

Something new today! A couple of days ago, I ventured into the world of trying to create my own dish. I'm okay at cooking, not stellar or anything, but mostly I make really easy dishes. Like if I make chicken, I cook the chicken and then steam some veggies and that's pretty much it. Or if I make noodles, I boil the noodles, drain them and add sauce. It gets b-o-r-i-n-g after a while.

So, while this is a really simple dish, it took more effort and slightly less time than I usually put in. Which was actually kind of nice! And it is deeeeelicious!



What you need:
1 box of pasta (I used penne but you can probably use any kind you want)
1 1/2 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
2 chicken breasts
1/2 cup of cheese (or more!) - I used pepper jack and cheddar, cause it's what I had on hand. Mozzarella and parmesan would be the more classic choice.

Prep time: 15 mins (if frozen chicken)
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins

1. Thaw your chicken
If it's frozen, anyway. I always buy the big bags of frozen chicken from Costco because those have almost no fat on them and there's tons in the bag.



I like to thaw my chicken in water because it goes quicker. If I use chicken that isn't prepackaged, then I put it in a Ziploc bag.

2. Preheat oven to 350.

3. Boil water for pasta.



I used this Smart Taste stuff, which has extra fiber, but only because it was on sale. Again, use whatever kind of pasta you want.

4. Cube and cook chicken about halfway.




Cut your chicken up into small chunks. Then, put it in a pan with a little bit of oil (about a tablespoon) and cook it until it's about halfway done.

It should look like this when it's finished:




5. Cook pasta for about 5-6 minutes.

Don't cook it until it is done or even al dente. It's going to cook more in the oven.

6. Grate your cheese.

I always grate my own cheese, because I hate the idea of paying more for cheese that's shredded. You get a lot more if you buy a block, and it's really easy to shred cheese.


If you use two (or more) kinds like I did, mix it in a small bowl.

7. Add one jar of pasta sauce to cooked pasta.



Stir it in!


8. Place your pasta/sauce and your chicken into an oven-safe casserole dish.

Mine was smaller than 9x13, but it's not labeled how big it is on the bottom.


Anyway, now it looks like this. Add some cheese - about half of however much you grated. Stir it in.

9. Pour your remaining half-jar of sauce on top.

Don't stir it in right now, because we want most of the noodles to be covered by sauce so that they don't get crunchy in the oven.

10. Bake in oven for 25 minutes.

11. Take it out, add the remainder of the cheese, and return to oven for 5 additional minutes.



Now it looks like this deliciousness!


The relatively low amount of cheese in this dish keeps it slightly healthier. And if you use whole-wheat pasta, that's even better! Mine doesn't have as much chicken as I'd have liked, because we had very little left (and I share a freezer with three rommates so I don't like to hog it all). You could also make this with ground beef or Italian sausage if you want, and I'm sure it would be just as delicious!

Have any of you made anything similar to this? What did you do differently?

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Coffee Table Refashion

Hello bloggy friends! Today I am going to share with you a project that I began before I started my blog, that I've been working on incrementally for a couple of months!

This weekend  I went home to my parents' house. They've been living in this house since before I was born, so naturally they have accumulated some assorted items that they no longer use. One of them was a darling little coffee table that my mom informed me has been living in the garage for over twenty years. A couple of months ago, we brought it out and began the process of reinventing it for my new apartment! I don't have any before pictures, but I'll share with you what I did with it and the finishing touches I did this weekend :)



So here is what it looked like when I began my work this weekend:


Much of the work was done on previous visits home. This table was in kind of rough shape, having seen no love for years. In fact I don't even think it was ever used in my parents' home. My mom said she tried to refinish it once by stripping it and then starting to paint it white, but she never finished. So, to begin, I sanded the entire thing down to get off all the grime and dirt. I used a power sander for most of the flat surfaces (the top, the bottom shelf, and the sides) but hand-sanded the legs. There are also two drawers, which obviously aren't in this picture.

Once it was sanded smoothly and evenly, I pained it a color called "Antique Yellow" with a satin sheen. I don't recall what paint I used, but I do recall that the paint swatch I brought to the counter was a different brand than the paint can I brought to the counter, haha, so it probably wouldn't be much use anyway.

This weekend was all about the top and the drawers. In the picture above, the top has one coat of stain on it. That's all it needed, as it's a really nice mahogany. It would have been a real shame to paint it. While the stain dried, I worked on the drawers.


Here's what the drawers looked like. Sanded down, but you can still see ring marks around the holes there and that the bottom is kinda old looking.


Here is after one coat of paint. Once this dried, it got a lot lighter and it needed a second coat.


Unrelated, but here is one of my cats, Roxie, who stopped by to check on the proceedings. She is a Norwegian Forest Cat and she is undoubtedly the most fabulous cat in the world.


Now here is the inside of one of the drawers. It's kind of gross, and I'm pretty sure I didn't sand in here. I DID, however, wet a paper towel and get all the dirt and spiderwebs out when I originally discovered the table. (Having been in the garage for over twenty years, this table was home to many a spider.) I did that again this weekend just to be sure.

So in order to make this less gross, I decided to paint inside the drawers. But not yellow, instead, I went with an accent color, a nice light blue.


This is what it looks like. I don't think it's too boring or plain but it also doesn't take away from the beauty of the table.


Both drawers, after one coat of paint on the inside. It was pretty light coverage, both because I didn't sand or prime in there and also because the wood is fairly dark.


While that was drying, I worked on the outside edge. If you're going to paint this part of a drawer, use light coats because you don't want it to stick when you're trying to slide the drawer in and out. This is after one coat.


For comparison, one painted and one not painted.


Then I turned my attention to the top. I painted on one coat of satin sheen polyurethane, to give it some shine and also to protect it from the wear and tear I know it will get. This picture is after one coat has mostly dried. (You can see a stain from an oil can on the top, there. I couldn't get this out through sanding unfortunately, so I've decided that it adds character!)

After the first coat was dry, I sanded lightly with a fine to very fine grit sandpaper.

After sanding. You can very faintly see the sand marks near the edge of the table.


Then, I wiped it with a damp rag (veeeeery slightly damp. Wring it out very well) to get the sawdust off. I let it dry for about five minutes after that, and then applied the second coat of polyurethane.


While that was drying, I went back to the drawers. The drawer in front has had its second coat of blue paint put on, and you can see I painted yellow the top edge of the front of the drawers.

Once everything was dry, I was done!



I LOVE the way the blue turned out. I think it looks so good.


Also, aren't the knobs awesome? They're original to the table and I couldn't love them more. They aren't quite screwed in tight because I didn't want to mess up the paint, in case it wasn't totally dry.



I'm so pleased with my beautiful and functional new coffee table!

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