Sunday, December 15, 2013

Another New Look for Old Canisters

I have a set of square canisters that hold dog food and treats. When I bought them at a thrift store, they were brown and scratched. I gave them a new look with paintable wallpaper.

After redoing my kitchen in black, grey and white, I wanted to add a bit of color (purple, of course) with accessories. The canisters sit out on my counter, so they were a perfect candidate for bepurpling.

First, I pulled off the paintable wallpaper. Next, to give the canisters a smooth surface, I covered them with wall liner (a heavy paper used behind wallpaper). I then rolled on a coat of the purple paint that I used on my dining table.

Inexplicably, the paint went on with a mottled appearance. I rather like it. :)

 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday

My current style is practically garish compared to the not-too-distant past. For several years, I wore almost exclusively black. These were my wardrobes:
 

Today, for Black Friday, I am back in black.
 

Outfit details:
Lace top: Charlotte Russe
Velvet corset-style vest: Eternal Love
Lace gloves: Claire's
Velvet and lace skirt: The Black Rose
Boots: New Rock via Pennangalan
Hair clips: Claire's
Earrings and pendant: Party City
Lace choker: My remnant stash

Monday, November 25, 2013

Football Fields of Black Lace

While I was unemployed, I occupied much of my free time with sewing. As I worked my way through my stash of fabric making skirts and dresses, I soon ran out of the lace I like to use to finish hems. I began to build a small mountain of nearly-finished garments waiting for their lace.

Finally I was able to order more lace, which arrived today. Woo-hoo, 250 yards of ruffled black lace!  :D
Now, if I were in a country that uses the metric system (so... pretty much the whole world except the United States of Stubborn), I'd say that's about 228 meters. But since I'm in the US, I am obliged to say that's about two football fields.

Huh? Those of you outside the States may not know this, but Americans are obsessed with measuring things in terms of football fields. Anything and everything can be measured in football fields -- the International Space Station, sinkholes, asteroids, sushi, chicken wings. It's absurd. :P

Anyway...

Why did I buy such an insane quantity of lace? Sold wholesale in 50-yard spools, black ruffled lace is about 30 cents per yard. At retail fabric stores, ruffled black lace sells for $3, $4 or even $5 per yard. Talk about markup! :o  Even with a minimum order of $75, buying wholesale is the better option by far.

I'm sure no one will be surprised to see new lace-trimmed skirts featured in upcoming posts. ;)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bats and Lime Dress

I've previously shown dresses that I made with an altered version of McCall's 6027.  Though those dresses fit well, the neckline is so low that I have to wear a shirt underneath. With some additional effort, I further altered the pattern to raise the neckline several inches.

I combined that altered bodice pattern with the godet version of the McCall's 6027 skirt. I used a black and lime green bat-print cotton, with solid lime green cotton for the godets and the trim around the neck and arm holes.



What do you think -- Should I make a green sash to go with the dress?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Purple Owls Dress

My fourth dress success was made from this purple owls and trees print fabric from Hancock Fabrics.

I used my altered McCall's 6027 for the bodice portion and New Look 6020 for the skirt portion.

This successfully produced the A-line shape I was going for.
 

As you can see, I've had another haircut. The previous length felt sort of "in between." I was still putting it up, which rather defeated the purpose of having it cut in the first place. And it was still heavy, without much movement. So I had it cut short enough to swing freely and had more layers added.

It feels less like a drastic change than I'd hoped. But short of pulling out the clippers or bleach, this is about as big a change as I could get. I think my real problem is that no matter what I do to my hair, my face still looks the same. :P

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rejoining the Realm of the Employed

The job decision is made! As you all suggested in your comments to my last post, I chose Job Two, the more challenging position. I will meet with HR Friday to fill out paperwork, then I start work on Monday. I'm a bit nervous, but mostly excited. :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Three Shoes, Two Jobs, and One Dog

Every year around this time, shoe stores put out their winter stock of boots. Every year, I look for mainstream (i.e., not Docs or New Rocks) tall black boots. Every year, I find none that fit.

I have what my mother refers to as "racehorse legs" -- slender calves, bony ankles, and big, wide feet. Tall boots are always too big for my ankles and too narrow for my feet. That's annoying. But what is absolutely infuriating is that on the rare occasion that I find a wide width boot, it's always a wide calf boot. As if a person with a wide foot couldn't possibly have normal calves. Boot makers of the world, listen up: Wide feet do not equal wide calves!

I repeat: WIDE FEET DO NOT EQUAL WIDE CALVES!

Okay, enough ranting. This footwear story actually has a happy ending.

Though I found no boots that fit, I found three pairs of shoes. Three! It is exceedingly rare that I can find a single pair of shoes that fit. Finding three in one go is unheard of. And they were all on sale! Unbelievable!

I got this pair with cute ribbon laces:
 

This pair of Mary Janes:

And this pair with buckles. They're quite similar to the others, but at $20, they were a bargain.

So what is an unemployed person doing buying shoes? Well, I won't be unemployed for long. :) Only this week, in fact. I just have to decide which job to take.

I find myself in the unexpected position of having offers for two jobs. Both companies apparently really want me and have extended attractive offers. It's a bit surreal being wanted. And the decision is agonizing...

The two roles are similar. The companies' cultures are similar. The compensation and benefits are similar. The main differences are location and job content.

Job One is in downtown Denver, which is appealing to me. I liked working downtown back east, and it would be nice to commute by bus. Job Two would require commuting by car, but it's pretty close to home, roughly a 15- or 20-minute drive.

Job One would be easier and start at a relatively slow pace, I think. This has appeal for someone who's been lazing about for eight months. :P But realistically, I would be unhappy if the job is too easy. I like to have plenty to do. Job Two has a rather intimidating list of duties. No way I'd be bored with it! And expectations would be high because the person currently doing the job is very good. I'd have to be at my best from day one. It's a bit overwhelming.

There is one last thing to factor in. The Job One interview lasted only 20 minutes. I met with a person from Human Resources and someone from the administrative team. I did not meet the executive with whom I would be working every day. I'm a little uneasy about that. It feels a little like a mail order bride situation. :P The Job Two interview lasted almost two hours (and it was intense!), and I met the executives as well as the person who is currently in the role.

Both companies are expecting my answer by first thing in the morning, so I must make my decision tonight. Ugh. I don't usually have this much trouble making decisions.

Whatever I choose, I'm happy that employment is pending. I need the money to pay vet bills!

Friday night, I noticed the cyst on my dog's shoulder had swelled with infection again. :(  So it was off to the vet's on Saturday morning. More draining and a longer course of antibiotics this time.

Though I'm not happy the infection has returned, the situation does relieve me of some of the worry I had about my regular vet's handling of the first infection. It's obvious the cyst can indeed become infected in a very short amount of time (about 24 hours this time). And the vet at the weekend clinic provided the same type of treatment.

Luckily, Bean Sidhe is unfazed by the ugly thing. In fact, she's quite happy to receive a glob of peanut butter twice a day. She doesn't even notice the pill hidden inside.

Now I'm off to continue agonizing over the job decision...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sewing Machines Dress

I spotted this black and white sewing machine print fabric at Hancock Fabrics and could not resist. It's mediocre quality, but it was worth buying with a 50% off coupon. I used it for a dress.

For the bodice portion of the dress, I used my altered McCall's 6027. I omitted the front seam by cutting on the fold. I combined this with the skirt portion of the jumper from Simplicity 2868.
Simplicity 2868 (out of print)

Alas, the resulting dress was too tight across my big ole butt womanly curves. I solved this problem by adding four godets starting just below the waist.


As for the styling, I'd love a critique from those of you who are more stylish than I (which is pretty much all of you). The tights are too sheer and opaque black would look better, yes? What do you think about the black and white shoes?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

IKEA Light Saves Halloween

As darkness fell, I turned on the orange lights strung on my house and the pumpkin lights lining my walkway.Then I flipped the switch for the all-important porch light... and got nothing. It wasn't the bulb; the light was not working.

Any other day of the year, it wouldn't be a big deal. But on Halloween, the official welcome to trick-or-treaters is the porch light. Even with lights on the house and the walkway, trick-or-treaters might skip my house... leaving me with pounds of candy. Although the thought of keeping all the candy for myself made me momentarily gleeful, sense took over.

IKEA Hemma to the rescue! I ran the light-bulb-on-a-string style cord out through the living room window and placed the bulb inside the broken light fixture. It looked a bit ridiculous, but it served the purpose of luring trick-or-treaters to my lair.
Bane's lair
Bulb sitting inside the broken light; cord running in through the window. Classy! :P
Alas, the weather was about as cooperative as the porch light. It's 45F (7C) and very windy, and not many trick-or-treaters ventured out into the cold night. I have quite a bit of candy left over after all.

The obvious solution is to get a job so I can give the candy to my new co-workers. :)

A Quiet Halloween... Even with a Dog

Around Halloween last year, I was extremely stressed out with my job. I was trying my best to make it work but finally beginning to accept that I was not going to be successful. About three weeks later, I threw in the towel and resigned.

This year, I'm at the other end of the employment cycle, looking for a new job. After many less-than-thrilling opportunities, I'm actually pretty excited about two particular positions. I have interviews for both tomorrow. One is nearly at the offer stage, so perhaps I will soon return to the ranks of the employed.

Tonight should be pretty quiet. I'll just be giving out candy to the trick-or-treaters. I haven't decided yet whether I'll don a costume. I might reuse one from a previous year, or I could easily pull something out of my closet that the candy seekers would interpret as a witch costume. ;)

As in previous years, I made treat bags out of fabric scraps. They are filled with candy and ready to go.


Yesterday in a Petco store, I overheard a woman complaining that her dogs are a huge nuisance on Halloween. If the dogs are in the yard, they bark constantly at the kids walking by. If they're in the house, they freak out every time the doorbell rings.

My dog Bean Sidhe feels compelled to protect me when little masked intruders appear at the front door. To keep her calm and out of the way, I simply put her in the car. With the car in the garage, she can't see or be upset by the costumed interlopers roaming the neighborhood. She likes being in the car ("Yay, we're going for a ride!") and will wait quietly for me. I give her warm blankets and check on her every so often, and the trick-or-treat time passes with no fuss.

Do your pets cause trouble on Halloween? How do you handle it?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dress Success 2: Purple Spiders

After finally achieving dress success with a heavily altered McCall's 6027, I immediately set about making dress number 2. I used a purple spider-print cotton from Hancock Fabrics.

I am really pleased with the fabric. It's higher quality than many novelty cottons, and I love the shade of purple. It's the same color as my bedroom. :D
 

I've never really worn dresses because of all the fit issues, so wearing a dress is a novel experience for me. The trouble is I don't know how to accessorize. Necklaces? A belt? Boots or shoes?

How would you accessorize this dress?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Snow and Glow

This morning, I awoke to a lovely autumn snowscape. My pumpkin lights were topped with snow. Cute!
I amused myself with possible captions for this photo:
"My snow beret is tres jaunty, non?"
"Brain freeze!"
"If pumpkin pie can wear whipped cream, so can I!"
"The elusive Jack O'Poodle"
"This Halloween, I'm going as Marie Antoinette's head."
Or perhaps simply "Happy Halloween from Colorado!"


In other news, I treated myself to one more t-shirt. This one glows in the dark.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

At Last, Dress Success!

I've tried several times to make a dress with a fitted bodice (usually with princess seams), and I've failed each time. With every pattern I've tried, the resulting dress gaped open at the neckline, with lots of excess fabric across the upper chest.. The fundamental issue is that my upper chest is very narrow -- a problem that the usual adjustments for a smaller or larger bust do not solve.

Other adjustments are challenging because of the way princess seam dresses are constructed. On most of them, the shoulder straps are part of the bodice front. Thus I couldn't alter the bodice front to accommodate my narrow upper chest without skewing the shoulder straps and armholes.

I finally found the solution in McCall's 6027.
McCall's 6027

In this pattern, the shoulder straps are part of the bodice side front, leaving me free to alter the bodice front without skewing the shoulder straps.

Even better, the bodice front has a seam down the center, giving me an easy reference for narrowing the bodice.

After making a muslin and using myself as a human pincushion dress form to go through several iterations, I finally ended up with a bodice that fit. The trick was to alter it along the center seam, narrowing it 1.25" at the top, tapering down to .5" at the waistline. I also added 2.5" to the length to accommodate my longer torso.

The photos below show a comparison of the original front pattern piece and my front pattern piece. Luckily, I did not have to change the curve of the bust seam, which meant I didn't have to alter the side front pattern piece. I was able to get the proper fit by making changes only along the center seam.

There is one big drawback to McCall's 6027 -- it's too low-cut for me. The easy solution is to wear it as a jumper (a sleeveless dress worn over a shirt). It's very comfortable, but I suspect it makes me look like a schoolteacher.

This is especially true in the Halloween fabric I used for my first successful prototype.
 

I have since made three more jumpers, with some variations, which I will show in upcoming posts.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Many Thanks and an Update

I want to thank everyone who replied to my last post or wrote me on Facebook. Your kind words mean a lot to me. I really appreciate the support. :) Many thanks to all my readers!

Happily, I have been feeling much better the past couple of weeks. I've been working my way through my fabric stash, so I'll have some sewing projects to post about soon. I've pulled out the autumn decorations and I have been rejoicing in the cooler weather.

My main priority has been my job search. It was going very slowly because there weren't many good opportunities posted. Most employers are looking for 2-5 years of experience; I have 15, which means I find myself in the predicament of being "overqualified."

I finally made some progress this past week. Last Sunday, I applied online for six positions. By Tuesday evening, five of them had contacted me. I also got calls about two positions I'd applied for earlier. By the end of the week, I'd had seven phone interviews and three in-person interviews, with a fourth scheduled for this coming Tuesday. I'm now feeling better about my chances of finding a decent position within a reasonable amount of time.

In the midst of this, I've been dealing with a pet health issue. About a month ago, I took my dog Bean Sidhe to the vet because a lump on her shoulder previously diagnosed as a lipoma (a benign fatty tumor) had suddenly grown much larger. The vet checked it and said there was no need for concern. Then last Tuesday, it was suddenly obvious that there was a problem. It turned out to be a cyst which was badly infected.

Bean Sidhe's now on a course of antibiotics and seems to be healing well. Luckily, the cyst isn't painful, so I'm able to tend to it easily.

I can't help but wonder about the vet's diagnosis that the lipoma grew larger a month ago and then became infected this past week. In my mind, it seems more likely that the lump grew larger because it was infected. If that's the case, the infection raged on for a month before being discovered. I feel guilty because I was concerned about the way the lump looked -- not just larger but bare of hair -- but I didn't press the point hard enough with the vet. And now I have this nagging concern about whether I can trust the vet 100%... which is too bad because he's been Bean Sidhe's vet for three years and I've always liked him.

On a happier note, my favorite season of the year has arrived. Of course, it's the worst possible timing to be unemployed in October, when all the fun Halloween and autumn goodies are for sale. :P But I have allowed myself to buy a few things. To no one's surprise, I couldn't resist buying some fabric, which I'll post about later. I also bought some T-shirts and a set of bat salt & pepper shakers.




Saturday, September 7, 2013

Stairwell Redo

My basement stairwell was in desperate need of a redo. Because it's mostly hidden from view, I decided to go a little crazy with a black and purple color scheme. After all, you can only see the stairwell when you're standing in or at the top of it. :)

In their "before" state, the stairs were covered in 20-year-old carpet that showed every bit of its age.

The wood trim was an absolute mess. The countless layers of cracked, flaking paint could not hide the rough wood or the knots bleeding through.

With low expectations of what I'd find underneath, I went ahead and ripped up the carpet and padding. I discovered particleboard treads which had managed to collect many dings and dents over the years despite being covered with carpet. The risers were cheap wood. Both treads and risers were filled with staples which, of course, I had to pull out one by one.

The stairs are obviously meant to be covered, but I am not a fan of carpet. I decided that with enough prep work, a paint job would be good enough for rarely used basement stairs. After a lot of wood filling, scraping, sanding and caulking, I ended up with relatively smooth surfaces.

I primed and painted the trim, walls and treads. Though I prefer dark purples, I used a light purple because the stairwell is enclosed and not well lit, especially at the bottom. I like the combo of lilac and black.

It's usually suggested to paint treads in an every-other-stair fashion. That might work for smaller people, but I don't have the contortionist skills necessary to fold up my big body and perch on one step while painting the next step. It was much easier for me to paint the stairs in groups of two or three.

I experimented on the boring slab door, adding a black wood applique and panels of adhesive shelf paper trimmed with black molding.

Finally, I installed a dark walnut-look vinyl plank floor on the top and bottom landings.

For the "up" view, I covered the risers with adhesive shelf paper. (Sorry for the glare...the stairwell is too dark to take a picture without a flash.)

This picture better shows the black and white paper (and my photobombing dog). The paper is only 18" wide, but the print isn't directional, so I was able to cut it off the roll sideways. That way, I avoided having to piece the paper on the 33" risers.

I am very happy to have the last bit of carpet gone from my house. In my mind, 20-year-old carpet can't possibly be clean. The stairwell doesn't feel icky any more, and the stairs are much easier to use. The thick padding and carpet made each tread feel too small/short. The bare treads provide more room for my size 10 feet. :)

Total cost of this project was about $80. I spent $40 on flooring, $5 for a roll of shelf paper and $5 for a gallon of "oops" purple paint. I had primer and black paint on hand. The remaining $30 was spent on trim molding for the door, base molding for the new flooring, and replacement boards for the top plate which had been damaged by carpenter ants at some point in the past.