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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Make an Entrance

After sorting out my wardrobe a few weeks ago, I kept some clothes I don't wear to see whether I can alter them. I had two shirts, both of them not-wearable because of the color: white and a light yellow. Unfortunately, I am not blessed with a permanent bronze tan: I can only make that work in late summer. Throughout the other 11 months, I'm just a bit pale.

When you need color, dyeing is the way to go. I had set the goal for myself not to stay on the safe side this time, so it had to be a color other than black, grey or blue. Red, orange and yellow do not look good on me and I don't like pink, which means I had no choice but to go with 'Windsor Purple', and 'Emerald Green'. Exciting and scary, dyeing clothes! I managed to spill both purple and green on my sweater, too.

I am new to this, but color variations are apparently not all alike: the red stripes stayed red, while the grey dogs turned dark green. I quite like the effect of red on purple, I'm just glad I did not dye that one green. After the first bath the dog shirt turned fluorescent green. Not really what I was aiming for, so I had to dye it again. Adding more salt seemed to do the trick.

I also took in the side seams on the purple shirt, and replaced the white buttons for some beautiful bronze ones. Together with the purple they give this shirt a whole different look. Less summer, more chique.

I'm very happy with the results on both shirts! I'm not sure whether these colors make me less pale, but at least I'm sure to be noticed when entering a room!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Make it fake

Last weekend was our big Sinterklaas swap. We each held a sales-pitch, explaining what we had brought and why. Remarkably, the most common reason was: "It's a nice shirt/dress/vest, there's nothing wrong with it, but I just don't wear it". Which goes to show, again, that you really need to think before you buy something. Luckily, I could pass on most of my items to my friends.

I have a 'Things to sew'-list, and on it was a blue (fake) leather jacket. Much to my delight, one of my friends brought exactly such a jacket for the swap. Hurray! It gives this jacket a second life, and moreover, saves me a lot of work. I also swapped a blue vest, which matches my formerly-XL shirt.

Anyway, the eye-catcher in these pics should be my new bag! I made this simply because my other big bag was worn out. I had a mental image of this new bag since I accidently made a nice combination of fabrics while rummaging about in my fabric suitcase. The tough brownish wool makes a nice contrast with the little beige flowers. All I had to add was the fake leather.

It closes with a magnet. My other bag had no closing at all, so I felt no reason to make an elaborate one on this bag. The inside holds a pocket for small things such as pens and my phone.

But the most handy feature is the special key pocket. Anytime you go out, no matter where you go, at some point you need your keys. I guess we've all had that moment when you're back home, a bag full of stuff and your keys are always somewhere at the bottom of your bag (or to make matters worse, you also really need to go to the bathroom). I could use the pen-pocket for my keys, but the most convenient place would be in the corner, where I can reach them anytime. I guess you could make a pocket on the front, but I don't like the idea of my keys being on the outside.

I love how much I learn with each thing I make. It was the first time I made a big bag like this, and the first time I used fake leather. It's not as fancy as real leather, but it works just as well. I think I'll be using it a whole lot more!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Whilst working on a few bigger projects, I made some small improvements on earlier creations. The benefit of making things yourself, is that you can keep adjusting until they are exactly the way you want them to be. On the other hand, if you have enough time on your hands you won't get sloppy and there'll be no need for after-adjusting.

This little bag was the first thing I made since the start of this challenge. I added some D-rings to the straps, just for look of it. I've been using it on several occcasions. It can hold the essentials, plus lots of business cards.

Now for this purple bolero, I already wrote in the post I wasn't too happy with that big black button. I considered several options such as different buttons and ribbons, to give it a more playful look. In the end I went for classy and made an invisible closing.

Even this shirt wasn't quite perfect yet. Apart from some crooked seams, the buttons were not equally divided along the back. This kept annoying me everytime I looked at it, so I took them off and added an extra button.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sew your own, grow your own

Making my own clothes is one challenge, but it's only a part of a bigger plan. As you can read here, I'm trying to be more self-sustainable in all kinds of ways. This week we got news, meaning we can take the next step. We were on a waiting list for a small plot to grow our own food, and now it's our turn! We went to check it out this morning. Beautiful in winter, hopefully even more beautiful in summer!

It's 50 m2, too small to be completely independent, but big enough to start with. I bought some books in New York this summer, The Backyard Homestead and Organic Kitchen Garden. The first one lays out plans for different sizes of gardens: what to grow and when to grow it, supported with all kinds of helpful drawings. It states that you need only a quarter of an acre (1 ha) to provide for a small family. Well we'll see how far we get with our one hundredth part of an acre :). What I like about this book is that it's very elaborate on every kind of vegetable and fruit, from all kinds of growing tips to storing and recipes. It even gives methods on how to grow and make your own beer and wine.

I bought Organic Kitchen Garden along with it because it's an English book, and is thus more suited for our climate. It's very different from the American book; more stylish, a more serious tone in writing, and with lots of beautiful pictures. It's also very helpful, with a year round calender with inside and outside tasks on what to sow or harvest, and how to treat your soil. And, also very helpful, organic ways to prevent or treat diseases and pests.

It's still a few months 'till the actual growing season, but according to the calendar we can start as early as January, tending our soil with some fresh manure and planting garlic! Can't wait :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Imagine This

Finally, finally I was able to make something new this week. I was so excited to get this project out of my head and into reality. I walked around with this idea for weeks, and I'm so glad it turned out exactly as I imagined it!

I was inspired by Rensz' T-shirt. She's working on digitalising the pattern, but I just couldn't wait! On top of that, a friend had borrowed all my sewing magazines. I had to take apart an old shirt to use as a pattern, but it worked just as well. Maybe even better: you can predict much better how it will fit.

I used the idea of no shoulder seams, but only on one shoulder. It wouldn't work for the flower-side. The flower was easy to make: take a piece of cloth, pull it up and wrap a thread around it. To make neat folds, pin them down as they've shaped themselves. Then cut it into the right shape, and sew it into the whole.

The goal was to add some details to the whole, but keep it simple at the same time. I think I've accomplished that by using the same fabric for all the details. That's why I made the buttons on the back invisible, and added fake buttons, made from the same fabric. I agree with what Rensz says about the back: you might not be able to see it, but other people see it just as often as your face. This part was actually quite hard: my sewing machine did not agree on sewing a straight line close to the invisible buttons...

But it turned out very nice on the whole, and I'm very proud to show you this! If I don't get that job, it won't be because of this shirt...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shoe-making, part 1

So, making my own shoes... I don't see the problem, really. It all works out fine in my head. I finally found out what this saying means we have in Holland, about a shoemaker and it's 'last'. I never knew what it was, but now I know it's his most important asset: the last acts as a mold and defines the shape of the shoe. If I want shoes, I need to make a last. Or two actually, one for each foot.

You can keep it simple or be thorough. The first option results in medieval-style shoes, sometimes made out of one piece of leather. I do share their preference for leather straps, but I would like my new boots to be somewhat fashionable though... The second option would entail a years work, and about 1200 euros. If you would like to invest this amount of time and money you could follow a shoe making course. Not really what I had in mind, either.

I think I'll take the medieval shoes as a starting point, and see if I can take them a thousand years into the future.

More about this quest later. But first, in a few days, something I'm very eager to show you!

Friday, November 12, 2010

From XL to S

I found a great blog through a fellow seamstress (who also makes great stuff by the way, check it out here). Marisa decided almost a year ago to make a new dress every day, with a budget of 365 dollar. That's one dollar a day! She gets her dresses from flea markets and garage sales, and manages to make them work every time.

So when I needed a new blouse for another formal occasion (lots of those these days, trying to find a new job), I decided to make one Marisa-style. A few months back I bought a shirt at Mamamini for 3 euros. I thought I'd only use the fabric because it was a men's blouse, size XL. But instead I decided to adjust it so it would fit me. It was HUGE! It didn't seem to have been worn a lot though, it was still in a good condition.

I took off the sleeves to adjust the shoulders and the side seams. I took in the sleeves themselves, and also shortened the bottom. I did keep some length though, I hate it when shirts crawl up. I also had to sew some figure seams in the back. And tadaa! I have a nice shirt that fits perfectly. I'm thinking of replacing the buttons with some blue ones, the white ones are a bit boring. (Update: check out how I turned this from S to Awesome!)

And check out the new jeans and shoes! I´m very very happy with those. And I´m even more happy to realize that not buying stuff all the time makes you so much more happy when you do buy something.

And I know, the shoes are not boots as I promised. But in return, I´ll try something even more challenging... The question that will occupy me in the coming days will be: is it possible to make your own shoes..?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Another cleanup

I am in this challenge for two months now. It is working for the 'no-shopping' plan, but not for the 'make something new' plan. Part of it is due to the lack of time I have, but a big part is also due to the fact that I still have a lot of clothes. And I still don't wear all of them. Time for another clean up!

These are all my clothes. Or were, because a third is now gone. I made three piles: one with clothes nobody would want to wear, one for the second hand store and one for friends. We have a clothing swap planned for Sinterklaas so I saved some of the good stuff for them. It wasn't easy, deciding what to keep. And I'm not even going all the way, you could still go so much farther than this. But it feels good in the end. I do have some new ideas, now all I need is a few days off.

While selecting I noticed something. I had some shirts that were quite old and still in one piece. I use them at work. I think they're at least 8 years old because I remember buying them. And guess what store they came from? H&M! That was a real surprise, considering the reputation H&M has. It seems all they have now are cheap shirts that fall apart within a month or two. Did they use to sell better quality stuff or was I just lucky?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I have finally finished something that has been on my needles since early spring. It was the first project I knitted out of a 'modern' knitting book. Before this I really didn't know there were such things as cool patterns! I just knew the old fashioned books I got from my grandma. There's so much I want to knit now, I don't know where to start! I hope I'll be able to make my own patterns one day. The trouble with knitting as opposed to sewing is that it's much harder to correct a mistake. It takes a lot more time because you have to start all over, instead of just taking out a seam. This short vest took me quite a long time, not because of the mistakes, but due to the size of the stitches. Look at how small they are! It seemed there was just no end to it.

Although it looks quite simple, I learned a few new techniques while making this, such as making a neat little edge. I made some changes to the pattern though; you're supposed to knit small shiny beads into it, but I'm not really fond of glitter. I also used a button for the closing, instead of a ribbon. I'm not sure about it though, I think the button is a bit boring. Maybe I should use a different button, add a button, or use a ribbon after all... Hmm.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


When I started this challenge, I didn't list any specific rules. The idea was not to buy any kind of clothing, at least nothing I could also make myself. But where to draw the line? I decided not to include underwear and socks, but I have to make another exception: jeans. I have only one pair of jeans at the moment. Making a pair myself is not impossible, but I'm afraid the outcome would not be something I would actually wear. I'm quite specific when it comes to jeans, as most people are. The cut of the legs, the size of the pockets, the way it closes around your hips, and yes, the way your butt looks in it is all very important. I could never make something that would meet all these criteria. This is why I decided to allow myself one more pair of jeans!

As for the shoe department: I reckoned I have enough shoes to match various occasions. My boots however are so worn out that I can't wear them when it rains; my socks are soaked within three steps (as you can see from the picture...) I wanted to replace them a few moths ago, but apparently there's something like boot-season, and early summer is not it. I do need boots to go with skirts and for more formal occasions, so this will be exception nr. 2.

One pair of boots, one pair of jeans... What a luxury after these two months without shopping ;)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

First new item

It has been over a month since I decided not to buy any clothes for a year. So far it has been going well. I have not been tempted at all, just been keeping my eye out for inspirational designs and fabrics. It's comparable to my decision to become a vegetarian (pescetarian, to be precise) six months ago. Making that decision once, takes away many decisions in different situations. Instead of having to make that choice every time you eat - meat or no meat -, you just decide once and that's it. Although I have had some cravings for meat, it's actually quite easy. The same goes for not buying clothes: it's just not an option anymore, so there's no sense in flipping through the H&M catalogue, or paying attention to sales. This one decision takes away all those "shall I buy it or not" decisions, and thus makes life a bit simpler.

Since I don't really need any sort of garment yet, I wanted to make a formal (but cute) purse which I can take to network meetings and other 'serious occasions'. I'm really happy with the colour combination. It's not very complicated, but I tried not to just throw it together like I usually do. And let me tell you a secret: there's a wooden skewer sewn into it somewhere...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A new challenge

Inspiration! It just keeps coming. I have been following this blog for some time now. Renske decided to stow away her entire wardrobe, keep a few basics, and make her own clothes from now on. Below is a skirt she made. She is obviously an excellent seamstress, which must have made this decision not too hard on her.

As I was cleaning out my wardrobe last week and brought a whole 'pink bag' to the second-hand store, I discovered clothes I have barely worn since I bought them. This never used to happen to me when I was a student and had little money to spend on clothes! Being poor is a good thing regarding clothes: you only buy something when you really really want it. When I started earning money two years ago, this gradually changed. A few months ago I bought a sweater, and when I came home I realized I had no idea what it had cost me. I thought this to be quite shocking, and a clear sign of the change in my spending behaviour. Not a change for the better, I think. So, having this in mind and then reading about Renske's project made me want to do something about it.

Here's my challenge: I won't stow away everything I have at the moment, for I had just decided I should wear them more often. But from now on, I will not buy any clothes for at least a year. Any kind of clothing I lack, I just have to make myself. Too bad one of my favourite jeans just tore at the knee... But I have made clothes before, and on top of that I love to knit, so this should not be too big a problem. It's the no-shopping that will probably be the hardest part :).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Something Big

Okay, this is only my third post and I'm already going to break the rules I set out. I will write about something big this time. The reason being that I found my first 'hero'. I never had one before, but now I found one totally by coincidence.

Her name is Heather. She's the same age as I am and I never met her, but I stayed at her mom's house in Bloomingdale, NY. Why is she my hero? There are several reasons, but here's a few: 1) she built her own house when she was 17. A real wooden, solid house, not just a play house. She started saving money when she was 14, and after three years she had enough money to buy all the building materials. 2) She fixes and restores old vans all by herself. She wanted to know how to and just found people who could teach her. From the metalworks to the interior design, everything. 3) She hiked many trails for many months, on her own. She hiked the Appalachian Trail by herself, which takes about six months. She also rode her bike from one ocean to the other, all across the USA.

But the most amazing and inspiring thing is that she learned all of this is by not going to school. Her mother Wendy started home-scholing her after the fourth grade, because she was a fast learner and bored at school. She gave Heather the opportunity to learn about whatever she was interested in. After a few years of moving through the country in a van, they settled and built a homestead on several acres of land. They became organic farmers and provided for lots of people. So not only does Heather know how to build a house, restore a van and survive in the wilderness, she also knows how to grow your own food. And she's only 26!

Which makes me think about what skills I learned by going to school all those years. Almost nothing that matters! At least nothing that contributes to a self-sustaining life, being able to fend for yourself. So if Heather is to be an example for me, something has to change in my way of living. Not just something small, but something big. How this will turn out I do not yet know. But I'm excited to start working it out!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Retro Heritage

Last winter, my grandfather moved to a home for the elderly. He and my grandmother, who passed away three years ago, had been living there for almost forty years. So naturally clearing out the house was something that took my father and uncle over a month. By the time that only a few boxes were left, I got to choose some things I wanted to have as a memory. The things that were left represented all different styles and era's; their spring cleanings had apparently never been very thorough.

Among other things, I chose an orange teapot that came literally right out of the seventies. I had never seen it before in use, but I could imagine my grandmother (I could almost certainly say i would not have been my grandfather, as they lead a traditional household where she made decisions about teapots) in a shop and buying this teapot, because she liked maybe its colour or its shape. It's a great teapot, as in that it pours the tea perfectly without spilling a drop. But it's also forty years old and rusty, so we can't use it in the way it was originally meant. It's function has not been lost though, for now we use it to water the plants, which utilizes its non-spilling quality just as much.

Another object I found were old sunglasses. I suspect they're from about the same period as the teapot. They are the kind of glasses you see a lot nowadays, I think they're called aviator sunglasses. I kind of like them, but I didn't buy them before because everybody was already wearing them. Such a non-conforming statement can't be taken too seriously though, because most of the time you can't avoid what's 'in' completely. But now I have a pair that have already been an item of style a long time ago. I can actually wear sunglasses that belonged to my grandfather and be fashionable at the same time. I like retro fashion, but this kind of retro is my favourite!