Sunday, February 24, 2013

#24: Pillow Case

So I have an oversized moon chair. It's super comfy to curl up in, but when I'm trying to sit straight ahead in it, it's way too deep and I end up leaning back at an awkward angle. The simple solution? A pillow to give some more support for my back.

I had an old white pillow that worked well, and I kept a plain black pillowcase around it so it wouldn't stand out as so white and pillow-y.

Plain black pillowcase

Unfortunately, one too many washes and this pillowcase was literally falling to shreds.


There are many places to buy pillowcases, but I was ASTOUNDED at some of the prices for a single pillowcase. Some of the ones I found at Bed Bath and Beyond were around $17. SEVENTEEN DOLLARS?!?!?! For a pillowcase? That's ridiculous!

So I decided instead to make my own. I found this size 2X black shirt for less than $2 and thought it would be perfect to upcycle because it was big enough, had a nice, smooth texture,....

Before: Big black t-shirt

....and had a big ol' hole in the shoulder!

Holey shirts need love too!

This shirt seemed destined for scraps, but with some simple tweaks, I'm going to give it a practical use in my home.

First, I pinned the old pillowcase to the shirt to measure the dimensions needed to fit the pillow (I also used a tape measure just to make sure).

Sizing it up!

The shirt had lines on the outside which were less visible on the inside of the shirt. I wanted to make the outside of the pillowcase less line-y, so I kept the shirt right-side-in as I pinned and sewed straight down the side of the shirt. I conveniently used one of the lines on the shirt as a guide to keep my seam straight.

Straight line seam

I did this with both sides, then cut off the excess fabric and sleeves. I also sewed a straight seam across the top of the collar and cut off the entire collar, shoulders, and that lovely hole.

Now I had 3 sides sewn with right angle corners and one short side left open.


I took the open side and flipped the edges out toward the lined side of the material, pinned it down, and sewed a new thin hem just to make everything even.

Sewing a new hem

Next, I grabbed some black Velcro strips and cut them in half long-ways. I only had the kind with the sticky back, so I removed the adhesive strip and stuck the strips side by side near the edge of the new hem to make one long, thin strip of Velcro. I put the scratchy hook strip across one side, and the soft loop strip across the other side of the pillowcase opening.

Sticky Velcro along the hem

Then I sewed on the Velcro along the edges of the strips. (If you sew with sticky-back Velcro, make sure to thoroughly clean your needle afterward or it may be sticky and gooey.)

Sewing on the Velcro strips

Lastly, I flipped the new pillowcase inside out, put the pillow inside, and pressed the Velcro sides together to close the pillowcase.

Seal it up!

My pillow case looked good as new, and the fabric was extra soft.

After- new pillow case
It made me want to get cozy in my fluffiest robe and take a nap!

Because everyone sleeps perfectly like this ;)

Even though this wasn't a fancy re-do, it was a good way to upcycle an old shirt. Just think of all the old t-shirts you have from camp, or that play you were in, or that one time you ran a marathon, or that boy band you loved, or that free t-shirt you were stoked to catch at that concert, or that high school club t-shirt with your name on it, or that super huge middle school shirt all of your friends signed like it was a yearbook. Rather than just exercising or sleeping in them, using them as a shammy, or letting them get eaten by moths in the back of your closet, this is something you can do with those old shirts to give them new usefulness and keep the fond memories around!

T-shirt pillowcases are washable, can be swapped out on throw pillows for the occasion (ugly Christmas sweater pillowcase anyone?), can be made into any shape, and work well on throw-pillows, play-pillows, or even when you travel and want to carry a little bit of home with you (or if you don't trust the hotel pillowcases). The possibilities are endless!

I enjoyed making this, but I am super eager to complete my current project that can only be described as odd   weird  *different*. Hopefully I'll find time soon to sit down and crank that one out. We'll see how it goes!

Until next time, blessings.

Monday, February 18, 2013

#23: African Dress

I'm working on a new project right now that's, well, *different*. As I work on that, I'll take some time to feature another transformation I created last Summer. And this one was SUPER easy. All I needed was 3 things: some scissors, some ribbon, and a bead.

I found this rather large maxi-skirt at a thrift store for just $1.

Before: African-patterned maxi-skirt

Here's an up-close shot of the pattern:


Some of you may not know that I actually teach an African-style dance class, so this skirt was right up my alley. For more info on my class, check out the details at the end of this post : )

This was a super simple remake, and like I said before, all I needed was a pair of scissors, some ribbon, and a bead.

First, I cut 4 small holes evenly on both sides of the center at the top hem of the skirt. 

Cut 4 holes

Next, I measured out 2 long strips of brown ribbon a little over 8 feet each (could be shorter, but not much shorter).

16 feet of brown ribbon

I grabbed a random round bead and attached it to the end of one of the ribbons (it can be sewn, tied, etc). Then I pushed the bead-attached ribbon through the hole on the right side closest to the center.

Push the bead through the hole

I worked the bead around the entire hem of the skirt and pulled it out of the hole furthest to the left. I did the same thing with the second ribbon beginning in the center left hole and exiting the far right hole. It helped that I could feel the bead through the fabric because it would have been much harder to string the ribbon around a thin hem by itself.

Pull the bead out of the hole

Once I had strung the ribbons through the hem, I cut off the bead and made sure the ribbons were equal length.

Four strands of ribbon

I grabbed the 2 ribbons on each side and gave them a tug to use like a drawstring around the hem.

Drawstring effect

That was it. Scissors, ribbon, and a bead.

Here's how it looked before:

Before: Large African-style maxi-skirt

Paired with a thick belt and my wooden-beaded necklace, I'm ready to get my African Groove on!

After: African-style halter dress

After: From behind

The key here was really the cinching at the waist. I would have preferred to pair it with a brown braided or wooden belt, but I didn't have one.

What's awesome is if you aren't feeling the pattern on this one, you can use these simple steps to make any maxi skirt into a halter dress! And with no sewing!


With an African-themed remake, I'll take this opportunity to plug my dance class. It's called African Groove and is an exercise-based dance class aimed at getting your heart rate up and working up a sweat with various African-style moves and tunes. Students of all ages and experience levels are welcome! I teach every Saturday from 12-1pm in Pasadena, CA. Check the website for directions and pricing information.

(**DEAL ALERT!: The studio has an unlimited classes monthly pass available right now on LivingSocial for only $62! That's a $125 value! Click here for this great deal!**)

African Grooving!

I'd love to see you in my class!

Until next time, blessings.

Friday, February 15, 2013

#22: Valentine Dress

Love is in the air! This Valentine's day has got me seeing red.......dresses, that is. I found this red dress while I was thrifting with my mom a few months ago. It has been sitting in my big bag of projects as I waited for an opportunity and inspiration to re-make it. I thought it would be perfect for Valentine's Day!


Before: From behind

The thigh-high slit had me feeling like Angelina Jolie at last year's Oscars!

Famous awkward leg pose

Not-famous awkward leg pose

Speaking of awards shows, the fashion at the Grammys this past Sunday gave me some inspiration for how to make this dress V-day ready. There was a lot of sheer paneling going on, some more risque than others.

Alicia Keys rockin' sheer

Kelly Clarkson's sheer acceptance speech

Faith Hill sporting sheer (with her clear braces like mine!)

Neyla Pekarek from The Lumineers sings sheer tunes

Rhianna (kind of) covered up in this sheer number

The fashion choices of the stars definitely gave me some great ideas. Let's see how this turns out!

First I made a stop at Joann's fabrics to look for some red sheer fabric. I bought some nice "tango red" chiffon for 60% off, along with some thin red ribbon with my 40% off coupon. Score!

Matching ribbon and chiffon

Once I found the right material, I started the transformation. I wasn't quite feeling the top of the dress, so I removed the zipper from the back, then I chopped off the shoulders halfway down the straps and set that piece aside.

Removing the zipper

Changing the shoulders

Next, I reshaped the bust into a sweetheart neckline by tucking the remaining strap material inside and sewing it in that shape. 

Sweetheart neckline

I then tucked and pinned the chiffon material into the front neckline. Then I sewed it down, tracing the neckline.

Pinned chiffon

Once I had the front sewn on, I folded and hemmed the side edges of the chiffon. Next, I measured my shoulder from front to back using a tape measure. I measured that same length of chiffon from the neckline where I had sewn it on and pinned it to the back of the dress. I sewed both sides, stopping in the middle, as I had to make sure not to sew over where the zipper would be. Then I cut off the excess chiffon inside the dress. 

Pinned to the back

Next I had to create a neck hole. I took the shoulder strap top piece I had cut off at the beginning, lined it up with the top of the folded-over chiffon, and cut out the same neckline.

Cutting a neck hole

I cut the chiffon straight down the center of the back, then grabbed the zipper and re-sewed it up the back of the dress ending at the collar. I was careful to fold and sew the chiffon to the edges of the zipper leaving it slightly exposed.

Welcome back zipper!

Pinned and ready to sew!

Next, I folded and pinned the side arm holes under to create about a 2-inch shoulder strap from the new neckline.

Folded and pinned arm holes

I took the red ribbon and carefully folded it around the edges of the the neck and arm holes and pinned it all the way around. Then I sewed it down and cut off the excess.

Folding and pinning the ribbon

Sewing ribbon around the arm holes

I added a hook eye at the top of the zipper to help close it, and sewed a button on top of the hook eye to make it look prettier. I also sewed a matching button at the center of the sweetheart neckline.

This hook eye may need its vision checked. Seems blurry ;)


Lather, rinse, repeat. I did almost all of the above twice. I sewed everything in place, and it just wasn't fitting right. The sweetheart neckline was to high/deep and it didn't look good, and I broke the original zipper. With only a few hours until V-day, I had to decide whether give up or start over. So I started over and worked late into the night and early the next morning to have it ready for the day. That explains the variation in some of the pictures. 

Next I moved onto the length. Sorry Angelina, but I needed to close this slit ASAP.

I ripped the seam from both sides of the slit, lined them up, and sewed them together.

Rip the Slit! (Sounds like a rock band's name)

Closing the slit

Once I had closed the slit, I lopped off a good 20 inches or so from the bottom of the dress and hemmed the bottom.

No longer long.

I cut that portion into 2 equal halves, hand-stitched a straight stitch through the raw edge side, and pulled it taut to scrunch it. Then I hemmed the sides and bottom of the fabric. 


I flipped the fabric upside down so that the scrunched side was pointing down. I then pinned the scrunched side to the side waist evenly between 2 seams on the front and back of the dress, and carefully sewed along the scrunched side. I did this on both sides of the dress.

Flipped upside down

Let gravity work and now I've got a long, split peplum. No, that's not an injury. As defines it, a peplum is "a short overskirt or ruffle attached at the waistline of a jacket, blouse, or dress."

I also sewed a bow by pushing a large strip of sewn material through a small loop of material. I hand-sewed it at the small of the back on only one side of the zipper so the zipper could still be used.

Easy Bow

With everything done just in time, I was ready to celebrate with my sweetheart <3

This is how it looked before:


And now after:

After: Valentine Dress

After: From behind

I painted my fingernails and toenails to match :)

With color-coordinated fingernails and toenails, I was ready for my date!

I spent my Valentine's Day evening pondering the wonders of the universe as I explored in amazement everything offered in and around Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles! The night time view was simply stunning and very romantic <3.

Griffith Observatory at night (NOT my photo).

I learned about orbit, moon phases, solar flares, planets, stars, the periodic table with real elements on display, and much, much more. To think of the huge leaps we've taken in only the past 2000 years. And to think that we're each significant, even in the massiveness and complexity of the universe. Blows my mind.

Solar flares


(Almost) looking through Galileo's telescope

Viewing Jupiter and its moons through the famous Zeiss teloscope

The *sheer* wonder of it all. By the time I got home, I was pooped and more glad than I've ever been IN MY LIFE to get my shoes off!


This was my first time sewing chiffon, and honestly, it was a hassle. The sewing machine tugged and scrunched it in all directions. Oh well. At least it turned out well. These are my adventures in learning to sew, after all. Next time I'll look up how to best sew with delicate and combination materials.

I hope you enjoyed spending Valentine's Day with someone you love. If not, I hope you spent it knowing that you are loveable and wonderful just as you are!

Until next time, blessings.