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Before and after altering a dress

Today being the first day of spring, I felt it was a great day to head to the mall and see if I could add anything to my spring wardrobe! Despite having proven that you are not 21 forever, I ventured into Forever 21 and grabbed a couple of dresses that were each about $10. One fit perfectly, but the other was too big in the bust – unfortunately a typical problem for me.

As I mentioned in this post, I’m really interested in learning to alter clothes, so I decided to buy the dress and give it a try!

It may be hard to see in the above “before” picture, but when I put on the dress as I bought it, it really sagged in the armpits and showed my bra. There was no way I could wear this without a cardigan, and it just made me look frumpy. But I’m tired of always having to wear cardigans with my $10 dresses!

step one of altering a dress

I pinched and tucked and played around with the dress a little, and decided what it needed was the side stitches brought in a little under the arms.

Step two of altering a dress

Next I turned the dress inside out and put it on. If I had a dressform I guess I could just put the dress on there, but alas, I have only myself. This way I could mark about where I wanted to sew to take in the sides.

Step three of altering a dress

I placed pins along where I expected to stitch on each side, and then took the dress back off.

Step four of altering a dress

I did some measuring and decided to take the dress in 1 1/4″ on each side, so I hand-basted a line that started 1 1/4″ from the edge and converged with the existing stitch at the waistline.

step five of altering a dress

I tried the dress on for fit and decided to add a little slack before using my sewing machine to stitch a more permanent line.

step six of altering a dress with a sewing machine

After sewing with the machine, I noticed that on one side the armhole hadn’t lined up properly (left). I possibly could have left it alone and no one would have noticed (or if they did, they’d just assume it was a cheap dress), but I decided to go all the way and fix it. I opened the seam a few inches and re-stitched so that the armhole lined up more smoothly.

step seven of altering a dress with a sewing machine

After trying the dress on for fit, the last step was to trim the seam allowances and finish them with an overlock stitch since I don’t have a serger. Theoretically I could have just left them as they were because they didn’t show through the dress when I wore it, but I decided to go all the way and finish the edges myself.

finished product after altering a dress with a sewing machine

Overall I’m really happy with how it turned out! I have a few dresses that I have this problem with, but they all have something quirky like a lining or a bias finishing on the armhole that would make them a little more difficult to take in, so I’m glad I got to try it for the first time on a dress that I could just pinch in and stitch.

Definitely looking forward to more alterations projects in the future!

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How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

I’m not ashamed to say I use reusable grocery bags every time I go to the grocery store (unless I forget to bring them with me). Yesterday I went to an event where they handed out fabric bags to throw your goodies in, and my first thought was “Yay another grocery bag!” My family also holds onto gift bags and reuses the same ones over and over and over again. So I thought to myself, why not sew a fabric gift bag?

A little drawstring Christmas pouch is great for small gifts, candy, ornaments, etc. It’s reusable, and the drawstring opening builds suspense by completely concealing what’s inside. And if your Christmas party is lacking anything, it’s suspense.

What you’ll need:

  • A Christmas fabric
  • Matching thread
  • Ribbon
  • A safety pin

How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

First I take a cut of fabric that’s about twice as long as it is wide.

How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

I press them in half where the bottom of the bag will be, and the two free ends that meet at the top will form the opening.

How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

My ribbon is 3/8″ wide, so I’m making the drawstring casing 1/2″ wide to allow adequate room. to make sure no frayed edges are exposed, Fold over about 1/8″ on the edge of the fabric and stitch it in place. Only one side is pictured above, but I do this on both sides of the opening.

How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

Next I fold down 1/2″ and press to form the casing.

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

I stitch down the casing with a zigzag stitch to keep the edge from fraying as much. I could theoretically overlock and then straight stitch it down, but the zigzag stitch just looks more fun. And in the words of Sheldon Cooper, “What’s life without whimsy?”

2013-11-03 15.51.11

 

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

Next I pin the right sides together to form the sides of the bag, and these I stitch with an overlock stitch and no seam allowance so that the stitch will line up perfectly when the edge of the casing. Make sure to leave the opening of the casing free so you can insert the ribbon!

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

To make the bag stand up on its own, you’ll want to sew the corners of the inside into two triangles that will lay flat against the bottom. I don’t know if there’s a science to determining how wide you want your triangles, but I make mine half the width of my pouch. My pouch is 6 inches wide, so you can see in the picture that I’m making my triangles 3 inches wide, with the side seam right in the middle. I draw a line where my gauge is measuring 3 inches and stitch right along that line, then draw a similar line on the other side and repeat.

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

A view from the top after I stitched my corners.

Next it’s time to insert the ribbon and make it a drawstring pouch!

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

I used leftover pieces of ribbon from another project that weren’t quite long enough, but you’ll want yours to be twice the width of your bag plus a couple of inches. My pouches were 6 inches wide, so I should have used 14 inch ribbons, but alas.

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

Affix a safety pin to the end of one of your ribbons, and insert it into one of the casings. When you reach the next opening, keep pushing the ribbon through the other side of the casing until the ribbon has come full circle.

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

Now you’re halfway done!

How to sew an easy DIY Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

Finally, attach the safety pin to one end of your second piece of ribbon, and insert it into the other side of the opening, where your first ribbon simply continued through without stopping. You’ll again want to move the ribbon all the way through so that both ends of the same ribbon are on the same side of the opening.

How to sew an easy Christmas pullstring pouch - Paroxa Designs

 

And voila! You have a drawstring little pouch for Christmas. I think these would be great if you’re having a party and want to give out little goody bags, and you can make it taller or wider as you so desire!

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Hanging wall shelves as a home decor projectWall shelves can be a sleek, minimalist way to create some storage space in your home. I decided to install some wall shelves above my TV to clear up some of the clutter on my TV stand.

Hanging wall shelves as a home decor projectBefore, I had junk all over the stand blocking my remote signals and stressing me out. Also I had a gaping empty stretch of wall that needed filling!

Remember the post where I talked about how to find a stud in your wall? Well this is why I had to learn how! Each shelf has three screws to secure it to the wall, and for maximum weight capacity at least one has to be secured to a stud.

Here are a few screwing tips I learned to hang these walls.

Hanging wall shelves as a home decor projectBefore you get to screwing, you’ll want to use a skinny drill bit like the one pictured above to form a little starter hole where you’re planning to drill in a screw. It’ll make the screw move into the wall more easily.

Hanging wall shelves as a home decor projectThe white screw-looking object pictured above is actually a dry wall anchor. Anchors will help stabilize a screw in the wall so that it can carry more weight without pulling out a chunk of the wall. I only used anchors on screws that weren’t going into a stud. Different kinds of anchors come with different instructions, so be sure to follow yours closely!

Hanging wall shelves as a home decor projectIf your screw ends up looking like the one pictured above, and no screwdriver can turn it in or out, you have yourself a stripped screw. The only choice is to take it out and put in a new one. Mine got so securely stuck I had to get out the pliers and jiggle it out!

Hanging wall shelves as a home decor projectEventually all my screwing hung the bracket above that in theory I’d be able to gently slide the shelf onto, but really sliding the self onto the bracket may have been the most difficult step!

Hanging wall shelves as a home decor projectBut eventually I was able to do it! And now I have some nifty storage space and some screwing experience under my belt.

I prayed pretty vehemently that hanging these right above my TV wouldn’t backfire terribly, but so far they’ve been safe and secure!

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Finding studs in your wall is an important DIY home decor stepIf you’re unfamiliar with the way homes are built, you might not know that your walls are actually mostly hollow, with vertical wooden structures called studs (pictured above) built in for support.

A lot of home decor objects that are made to hang on the wall, like the wall shelves I recently bought, need to be secured to a stud to prevent falling and pulling out a piece of the wall. So if you’re planning to hang an object, you’ll need to know how to find the studs in your wall.

Just a note, when you tell people you’re having trouble finding studs it’s a good idea to clarify that you mean in your walls. It should come as no surprise that I got a lot of funny looks when I said I needed help finding a stud to hang my wall shelves.

But hopefully this post will keep you from getting put in such awkward situations.

A good starting place for finding studs is an outlet.

Finding studs in your wall is an important DIY home decor stepOutlets are typically attached to the side of a stud, so you can be pretty sure that there will be one either to the left or right of any outlet in your home. The trick is to determine which side it’s on.

One basic technique is the “knock and listen” technique, which consists of knocking on the wall and listening for the stud’s location. As I mentioned before, walls are hollow except for where a stud is, so most spots you knock will produce a hollow sound. When you hear a fuller sound, you’ve likely found a stud.

However, when I tried this method in my apartment walls I had little luck. So here’s another method I found to determine with more accuracy where your studs are located.

Start by grabbing the strongest magnet on your refrigerator.

Finding studs in your wall is an important DIY home decor stepZigzag the magnet above the outlet, covering the areas to the left and right of the outlet. What you’re doing is looking for a nail where the wall was attached to the stud. Keep moving left and right and up and down until you feel your magnet pull.

Finding studs in your wall is an important DIY home decor stepThis picture is slightly blurry as I was taking it left handed, but you can see that the tip of the magnet is pulled against the wall. Grab a pencil and draw and “X” because you’ve found a stud!

Studs are typically 16 inches apart in modern homes, but they may be 24 inches apart. From your X, measure 16 inches to either side and find the next stud using either the knock and listen technique or your magnet. If you can’t find the next stud at 16 inches, try 24 inches instead.

Now you’re ready to have your decorations and be sure that they’re secure on your wall!

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Playing with paint chips is a great way to choose colors for DIY home decor

Even the most eclectic collection of furniture and decor can seem unified if you establish a color palette for the room and work within that scheme.

As I mentioned in this post, when I set out to cute-ify my kitchen, one of the first steps was to decide what color scheme I wanted to use. Before I even moved into my apartment, I knew I wanted it to have a beachy and open vibe, so blue-greens were a natural choice. I painted the walls a deep sea foam and bought linens in shades of turquoise. I decided my accent colors would be a warm brown, like my paper towel holder, and green as in my kitchen rug.

That example had a pretty narrow spectrum of colors I wanted to use, but not every color in your scheme has to be next to each other on the color wheel. Here are a few tips on thinking outside the box to create a color scheme for your room.

  • Start with paint chips. Head to your local hardware store and collect paint chips in a wide variety of hues and values that will allow you to mix, match, and experiment freely. Pick up paint chips that have multiple values of a pigment on one sheet, and cut the chips to separate the values and allow you more flexibility. Then arrange and rearrange them freely until you stumble upon a color combination you particularly like – working without setting yourself boundaries could bring out ideas you would never have considered otherwise!
  • If it’s not an empty room, start with the objects you can’t change. Somewhat luckily for me, my apartment was completely empty when I moved in. But if you’re on a redecorating kick, start thinking about colors relative to the piece(s) of furniture that have to stay. Painting a room and buying accent pieces are much easier and less expensive than a new couch or bed.
  • If you get stuck, try complimentary colors. As I said before, not every color in your scheme needs to be next to each other on the color wheel. If you want to add a little pop to a room, try jumping across the color wheel and using a complimentary color. For example, a well-placed orange accent will work great against a rich cerulean.
  • Browse the fabric store and sew your own decorative items. My last post was about choosing a fabric for home decor based on texture and other factors, and deciding to DIY your home decor even simply for accent pieces will allow you more options while working within your color scheme. It’s also much less expensive than buying everything from a boutique.
  • Look for inspiration wherever you find it. Don’t just browse others’ home decor for color inspiration. Color is everywhere! A picture of a parrot could be the jumping off point for a vibrantly colored room, or the local park might give you ideas for earthy, natural tones. If it inspires you, it’s not wrong!

Try these techniques and see if they don’t get the color juices flowing!

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