Too Tight to Just Right // Man to Boy Shirt Refashion

Hubby Tribe likes to tell people he gained 30 pounds sympathy weight with me in my first pregnancy and never lost it. He’s got a point. I like him way better with some meat on those bones, but he has had to part with many a (too tight) quirky tee along the way. Occasionally I try to wrestle him into something semi-less-casual, and this blue plaid button-down was one of my favorites.  He wore it  maybe a handful of times (most notably in this family photo), before he decided it was too tight.  It WASN’T (that photo was the last time he wore it), but he refuses to wear anything remotely fitted–that man needs his space.  So during my dejunking marathon (still working on it!), I considered tossing this shirt for 2.5 seconds before I knew I had to refashion it for The boy. Kiddo had a birthday last week, and was in need of some Sunday best (I did make him a button down for Easter, but it turned out too small!) So I cut into this bad boy down on Saturday night, and had it ready for him Sunday morning.

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I lost a few design details that I was sad about (the pointed yoke and pocket flaps), but I think overall it turned out so handsome.  I basically cut that sucker up along all seams, completely unpicked the collar, and then used Kwik Sew 3146 to size it all down (I love that pattern, it’s a real winner).  It’s kind of amazing that just omitting the button holes and front placket + sleeve hems saved so much time.

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Ah man, I love those boys. And no offense Babe, but that shirt paired with those skinny jeans and curls? The Boy wore it best!

Polymer Clay and Confetti Foil Stud Earrings

I sure didn’t wake up yesterday and say I’m gonna make some earrings today!, but sure enough, 6 hours later, that’s just what I was doing. The inclination seized me when I found my kids playing in our shed with some mysterious colored foil that my girly said had just been in there (?!).  She had recently been playing with her polymer clay as well, so the two mediums collided in my head and I had to stop everything and make some jewelry. You know how it is.

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These flashy little studs are so cool! I’ve been wanting some yellow earrings for a while, and these are just my thang thang. And they were so easy too!

All I did: Cut up tiny little snippets of foil (I used the mystery-shed-foil as well as my Jones foil–both worked famously), and then stuck them on a small ball of clay. That’s it.  I baked them @ 275 for 15 minutes, and then gorilla glued those pretties to some cheap findings I had on hand. Oh, I also slapped on some gloss finish for same added sheen after all was said and done.

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mad mim_polymer clay and foil studs_107Sorry there are no model shots; I hadn’t washed my hair in like two days yesterday, and ain’t nobody want to see a close up of that.  Hey when you’re susceptible to unpredictable compulsions of crafting, you can’t be relied upon to shower regularly.

What craft is seizing you today?

If you’re inclined to up and sew a Perfect Tee, there’s a couple slots left and today is the last day to sign up!

“Acid Wash” Cord DIY


Want a quick recap of the last three weeks at the Tribe’s? It involves multiple rolls of toilet paper in any given room for quick access.  We’ve been sick. Like, beastly sick. I’ve been in and out of bed for three weeks, which is unheard of for me, I’m usually annoyingly healthy. I’ve suspected everything from mono to mold, and after starting antibiotics on Monday, today was really truly the first day I could stand up for more than 5 minutes at a time.  The good news is I read like 4 books, and the other news is I’m going through some major sewing withdrawals.  I did bust out some crazy Easter sewing a few weeks back (I think actually that’s what did me in now that I think about it), and will eventually get my kids clean enough to photograph. But when I woke up today I was absolutely pining to get my craft on a bit before trying to reclaim the house from absolute squalor and catching up on my decluttering project.  Without even thinking I grabbed these pants from my refashion pile and started seam-ripping those cursed flat-felled seams.

I thrifted these brown cords about a month ago with plans to skinnify them. I did that first thing, but then was unsatisfied with the dark brown. It just felt stuffy, and after an hour of wear I wanted a change. I decided to throw these suckers in a bucket for a bleach bath and see what happened.  I think somewhere in the back of my mind was this acid wash look that I’d seen somewhere recently, and Ialso kept thinking about that time my mom let my older sister dry her dark washed jeans in the dryer with a bleach soaked rag. I didn’t really know how the cords would bleach, but I knew I wanted a splotchy uneven leach, so I reckoned the confined space of a bucket would lend itself to the look.

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mad mim_acid wash jeans refashion_01It worked so awesome.  I just came in every 15 minutes or so and gave it a stir but otherwise just let it sit.  Overall, it bleached into my favorite terracotta color, with the darker splotches turning a rusty maroon.

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mad mim_acid wash jeans refashion_03I rocked those bad boys out on my errands tonight, and I got three full-on double takes. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but I enjoyed them either way.  I’m sort of on a bleaching-my-dark-stuff-rampage (especially the few black items I have), and I gotta say it’s all been pretty successful! One of the books I read was David Zyla’s Color Your Style, which was a real treat (more on this later!) I love that type of stuff, it’s so fun to me.

So a week from tonight is the Perfect Tee class, and there’s still room left! Sign your little self up, it’s going to be a Party with a capital P and that rhymes with T and that stands for Tee….shirt.

Tribal Fold Over Pouch //Printing with Jones Foil Paper +exciting news!

Boy I tell you, I don’t know what I’m going to do when this whole tribal trend ends.  It will be a sad day for my home and wardrobe, and that’s the truth. But maybe I don’t have to see an end! Maybe I can just ride it into my own personal time bubble–oblivious of the ever-evolving fashion current–indulging forevermore in all the triangles and arrows my heart desires.  Don’t judge me if I do.

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For the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing around with Jones Foil Paper, and am pretty excited about this stuff. It’s such a fun product, and it’s pretty versatile too. I have experimented using different adhesives with it,  but decided for my first project I wanted to use it with it’s companion foil glue, just as instructed.  Worked like a charm, and it couldn’t be easier. I just love the legit metal glimmer of the foil paper! I’m sort of at a loss how to describe it, but it’s so true-metallic–really gold not just the color gold, you know what I mean? Really brilliant, especially when it hits the light.

On to the pouch. This fold over pouch has been on my to-do list ever since last year at Sewing Summit when I saw Venessa‘s amazing pouch pattern in the flesh.  It’s really a perfect design, and it was a great printing canvas because it’s such an ideal printing size.  Large enough to do a detailed design, but small enough to make it quick and fun.  The only very simple alteration I made was to add some small leather loops sandwhiched into the top sides of the pouch so that it could double as a shoulder bag. The fabric is a wonderful unbleached cotton duck that I dyed my new faveRIGHT color Terracotta. Prepare yourself for much much more of that color, because I wanna roll up and dye in it. Couldn’t help myself, some puns are inescapable.

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Printing instructions are very straight forward.  I simply free handed some very basic, doodle-ey tribal designs onto my fabric before assembling.  Start at the top and work down, and then allow the glue to completely dry. This takes a while, so take a break at this point and do something else, it takes at least an hour.  You want to make sure that the glue is completely dry, and has gone from slightly opaque to clear.

mad mim_Jones Foil printing_01Here you can see the difference between not-dry and dry–the middle is dry (and clear), while the top section is still semi wet.

mad mim_Jones Foil printing_04Put on your party hats folks, cause here comes the fun part. Press your foil paper on top of the dried glue (metallic side UP), and lift off! The foil sticks to the tacky dried glue, and the foil is now apart of the design.  If you miss a part, you can just press the foil down again and it will continue to pick up the foil until all areas of the glue are covered. This is great because you can really take advantage of every square millimeter of your paper.

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So pretty, right?!
mad mim_Jones Foil printing_05Now assemble your pouch according to pattern instructions, unless like me you want to add small loops to the top sides for the purse variation.  
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mad mim_Jones Foil printing_11I LOVE how this little pouch/purse turned out  It’s such a special piece, and it’s so perfect for when I want to go somewhere without my kids. I usually just tote my “diaper bag” (which is really just a large purse), but it’s really too big for just me. This is a great size for when I fly solo, and it’s so…me!

And speaking of fabric printing… (Jazz hands) I’m teaching at Sewing Summit this year!!! Hand printing fabric! Peeps, I am SO excited to teach this class, it is going to be such a blast.  Registration is just next week, April 16th at 10:00 am.  Last year they sold out within hours, so if you want to come (which you do!) better get your trigger fingers ready.  I would love to see you guys there! (Still have jazz hands).

Soft Knit Basket Weave Pillow Case // National Serger Month


Hey everyone, here I am on the rooftop of my blog (what a pretty view!), and I’m shouting into my Mad Mim Megaphone (MMM) that APRIL OF 2013 IS THE VERY FIRST NATIONAL SERGER MONTH EVER! NATIONAL SERGER MONTH EVERYONE! THIS APRIL! FIRST YEAR EVER! SO COOL! Ok, I think I’ll put down my MMM, people are starting to stare. SERGER’S ROCK! Sorry just had to squeeze that in with one last fist pump.

Seriously though, sergers are wonderful machines.  They make sewing so professional, fast, durable, functional, and really just a delight.  I love mine like I love my right hand, which despite my stubby fingers and thick knuckles, is a lot.   And since you know my love affair with knits, you know that I use my serger just about as much as I use old Righty.

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One of the basic serger techniques that really changed my life forever was learning that sergers can gather fabric by simply adjusting the differential feed.  Gathering can be a tedious and frustrating process, but doing it on a serger is quick and so easy to distribute the gathers neatly and evenly.  Today I get to kick off National Serger Month (which I’m honored to participate in!, and I chose to do a project that shows off this wonderful serging technique– without a serger these pillows would sort of be a nightmare, but WITH a serger, it’s  fun, easy, and so pretty. Head over to the NSM website for my project and other serger DIYS, ways that you can participate, serger basics, sweepstakes and other promotions. It’s going to be a serger sensation!

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30 Days to Less Crap

I have too much crap. Clothes, toys, dishes, old medicine, fabric, craft supplies, junk and stuff etc ETCETERA. I have too much of it all. Our house is tiny, and if I don’t keep our stuff down to a minimum, it just starts to pile up and creep out and take over the whole house and my life. Because I’m a self-aware hoarder at heart, I take the opportunity every Spring to toss some of my excess, and this year I’ve got a plan of attack.

Several years ago I read For Packrats Only by Don Aslett (the Master of Dejunking), and it really changed my life.  Most of it is just simple common sense and ideas of how to go about it, but there are some nuggets in there that blew my mind at the time.  Things about what you’re allowed to toss, a) never occurred to me and b) and opened my mind up to what I really need to be happy. Problem is, I forget a lot of those things, or even more frequently I just don’t take the time all the time to go through things and toss as I go. I do frequently donate stuff, but you know–it still mysteriously builds up.  It takes a lot of mental and emotional stamina to get rid of things, and sometimes I just let it go til’ I have time to go through it properly. That too is a problem because extra time is a laughable fantasy. So I’m blogging these painfully ghastly pictures here, so that I’ll have some accountability for this project, and also invite you to join me in dejunking if you so choose!  

Here’s my plan:

I’ve made a detailed list of 40 different areas in my home that I need to go through. I won’t post my full list here, but they are things like clothes hanging in closet, hair stuff drawer, pots and pans cupboard, under bed storage, top shelf in closet of death, and on and on. Basically they are very specific areas that are not too large and overwhelming, for example I would never list my entire closet of death, because that would be suicide and incredibly unrealistic. Each day of April I’m going to attack one small area and toss, reduce, and organize that jazz. I’m also going to be instagramming my little victories as well as tips and other nuggets of dejunking wisdom via Don Aslett and will hashtag it #30days2lesscrap, if you want to join me! Nothing like a hashtag party to get you motivated! I would love to see any of your reduction victories or tips!

This is the ACTUAL state of my Closet of Death, as if I would ever stage something this scary. It’s Allan’s clothes closet (not enough room in our tiny bedroom one for BOTH of our clothes), my craft closet and the only real storage in the entire house. It’s a beast.  That WILL be tamed.

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Part of this (okay, a BIG part) will be going through my hobby supplies, of which I have in abundance. I really need to weed out the unneeded and organize that biz’ness. My fabric stash is getting down right hazardous, and so in between family Easter stuff I’m going to be unloading and swapping some of my stash at the Fabric Swap Event, hosted by Melissa and Leanne. There’s still room left if you want to join us!

mad mim_30 days to less crap_02We’re actually just barely starting to house shop a little(!!!), so this dejunking will be a great precursor to moving, if we do find a home. And it just feels so much better that have what you need and nothing more, do you agree? It’s like cleaning underneath your fingernails after a long camping trip.  And what about you, do you struggle to keep your stuff from accumulating, and how to do you go about dejunking? Do you do it bit by bit or marathon style once a year? What’s the hardest for you to let go of, and what is your least favorite to go through? And what about rewards, do you give yourself incentives to get your motivated?  Share your tips and join the toss-fest!!

PS Happy Easter! I love Easter, and love sewing Easter Best for my kids. I’m pulling a Easter-Best-Athon (#easterbestathon), and have already made three pieces this week, and have at least that many more planned! Hope you have a wonderful Easter filled with loved ones and at least a moment of quiet reflection!


Ruched Sleeve DIY // Duckies in a Pond Tee

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Every so often it can be fun to indulge in a straight-up knock-off, and today I’m sharing the simple ruched sleeve technique I used for a Anthropologie tee knock-off  here, and all the other details (including my inspiration garment) over at the Train to Crazy where Andrea (is doing a fun Make This Look miniseries.

mad mim_handprinted_anthropologie knockoff_10For this project I began by hemming the sleeve hems, and then pinning a strip of 1/4″ elastic from the top curve of your sleeve to the bottom center of the hem (wrong side). The elastic should measure about 4 or so inches less that the height of the sleeve i.e. my sleeve was 12.5″, and my elastic was 8″.

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Then beginning at the top, secure the elastic to your fabric by zigzagging back and forth a few times to make sure that sucker isn’t going anywhere (medium width and length).  Zig zag down until you can grasp the fabric behind the presser foot, and then stretch the elastic to the full length of the sleeve while you zig zag down.

mad mim_handprinted_anthropologie knockoff_02When you’re finished you should get  nice and evenly distributed vertical gathers!

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Again, don’t forget to stop by Andrea’s wonderful blog for more deets!

Tiny’s Diagnosis

So way back in December I mentioned rather cryptically that I was dealing with some personal issues that were difficult for me to process. Many of you know I have a little 21 month old daughter who has had lots and lots of health problems, and up until December, was undiagnosed. I blogged about our life with a special needs child over at Miggy’s back in October, and it was because of that post that we finally got some answers.  It’s strange how things happen, and so humbling how things line up for just the right chain of events to occur.

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Back in December I received an incredibly sweet email from a girl named Erin who just wrote to say that she enjoyed my blog and felt a connection with me because she too had a special needs baby and understood all the stress and heartache and blessings that go with that challenge.  I’m always so touched when people take the time to reach out and say something kind, it means so much to me. Anyway, in the email she mentioned a picture that I had taken of Tiny and Twinkle, and reading her talk about it made me want to look at it again, as it’s one of my favorites as well. I know that it’s somewhere on my blog, and somewhere on my computer, but as strange as it sounds, at the time I felt like the quickest way for me to look at it was to skip on over to Miggy’s and look at Tiny’s special needs spotlight because I knew it was there. So you know how these things go, one thing leads to another; I reread the whole post, and then noticed that a few people had commented.  The last comment of the post, made by Elliesee, asked if Cornelia de Lange syndrome was a possibility for Tiny, and she mentioned that her sister had it. Now I have to say I’ve received lots of diagnostic tips and leads from well-meaning people, but I had stopped googling the various “diagnosis” because it tended to be overwhelming and not-helpful. But for some reason I looked it up, and immediately I was stunned by a physical resemblance of the children I saw that looks almost familial to my little girly. I read the diagnostic checklist and knew that this had to be it, she qualified for too many of the criteria for it to be a coincidence. And also there were things on the checklist that I hadn’t even considered to be part of her diagnosis (like her lacy-looking skin, tiny hands, and head of hair), and yet there it was listed as part of this syndrome.  So long story short, after lots of research, I quickly became convinced that we had found Tiny’s diagnosis, and as of last week we were finally able to meet with our geneticist who was able to confirm our belief, although he still wants to try and get approved to the do the (very expensive) genetic testing (I have mixed feelings about that).

All of December I felt like I was in a haze, and struggled deeply with all the implications of this syndrome and what it will mean for her future.  I was absolutely heartbroken, and grieved (all over again) for all the things that my precious daughter would likely not be able to experience.  Up until that point I had suspected those fears, but it wasn’t until then that I had to give up the hope that my daughter would ever grow out of the challenges that she was born with, as I deep down had hoped for. I was devastated that she would likely not be able to experience the very things that have brought me the most happiness in my life.  I will pause to say that we think Tiny has a mild version of the syndrome, and we really don’t know exactly how profoundly this will affect her life. At this point we’re going off of her current delays and what we know about the syndrome.  I’m certainly not ruling out any possible accomplishments, but rather am trying to be honest and realistic about all the possibilities that her CdLS and disabilities present.

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Since then I’ve come a long way, and now feel very much at peace with all these possibilities. There are still moments here and there that my heart breaks a little as new idea dawns on me, but for the most part, I have faith and peace that Tiny will live a full and happy life, and that she always have the love and support of a family who adores her.  It will undoubtedly be different than I had planned or would have wanted, but this is her life, and it will nonetheless be full and happy. She is a bright, sparkling little star, and I know she’ll take it all on with bravery, spunk, and detirmination–all qualities she’s demonstrated in abundance thus far. She is one the greatest blessings of my life, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel like the luckiest mom in the world just to have her blazing spirit in my life. She is my star.

I’ll also add to this the fact that once I came to terms with this, it all felt in some way familiar to me. I had always thought I might have a special needs child (something I vocalized to my sister nearly 10 years ago) because I felt a sort of connection with them that I can only describe as an intense compassion, love and yearning. When I was finally able to see Tiny’s situation with clarity it felt very right to me, and like I said, almost familiar, like something I knew was coming to me. I also feel for Tiny a sort of companionship (more so almost than a mother-daughter relationship), and that we were meant for each other. I won’t try and tell you what that means, only that these are the feelings that my life’s beliefs and experiences have interpreted, and they have brought me an enormous amount of comfort.

Developmentally at 21 months, Tiny has come about a million miles in the last two months. She is almost walking, eating orally (!!!!! We only supplement now through her G-tube), and is very exploratory and curious.  And although she isn’t talking at all, I feel she is understanding more and more signs and words, and has signed More, Milk, and All Done a handful of times. I am so proud of that little woman.

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So that’s where we are!  A couple of weeks ago she had an echo cardiogram and they think that she has a aberrant right subclavian artery that is causing a vascular ring around her trachea and esophagus . They think this could very well be why she aspirates! So anyway this week we have an MRI to confirm that finding, and if they do then she will have surgery sometime soon after that.  Of course heart surgery isn’t something you ask for, but if this could help her, then it would be amazing.

For those of you still reading, thanks for sticking with me on a long and personal post, I don’t open up very often about our personal life, but when I do I am always so touched by the kindness and caring that I am met with. Thank you!  And if you’re out there Elliesee, and you ever find this, can I say thank you from the bottom of my heart for bravely making that comment and  helping our family find some desperately sought for answers. You were an answer to our prayers that day, and you’ll never know how much it has meant to us!

K.I.D.S. Challenge // Rainbows and Unicorn Frock

The first time I met Jessica from Me Sew Crazy was at last year’s Sewing Summit, and seriously folks, she is such a warm and kind person. She makes you feel so good you want to just follow her around all day to soak up all her niceness.   When she asked me about participating in her Kid Inspiration & Design Series aka K.I.D.S. (part 1 and 2), I was so jazzed (hands included), because I LOVE this series. It’s such a great concept, and so full of love. I love how it approaches sewing for your kid’s with such thoughtfulness and collaboration.

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I always do consult my kid’s a ton when sewing for them, but this challenge really stretched both she and I as she had never had full design rights. It really strengthened her creativity muscle (she is usually a very literal artist–loves drawing from life), so coming up with something from just her head was a little hard for her. As you can see, her sketch was a bit nondescript, and so I kept pushing her to be more detailed and even color it, but she just wasn’t having it. In the end I would sketch a variety of design options to choose from, and in that way we fleshed out her design.  mad mim_K.I.D.S_Rainbows and Unicorns Frock_07b

One thing that we knew would be a part of her design from the beginning were these unicorn and rainbow stamps that she drew and designed/I made  using this technique.  She was all over the idea of designing her own pattern/print, and is particularly proud that the pattern is her artwork.  I created a two-directional print by carving a double-sided, reversible stamp.  I began by having her draw her designs directly onto the eraser, and then I would carve that (using your trusty linoleum cutter set), stamp it, and then trace the design again with a pen onto tracing paper. To reverse it, you flip the paper around and then again trace it using a soft lead charcoal pencil. Then doing your best to align the image with front side, you rub off the penciled design onto the opposite side and carve.  Boom! A two-directional stamp!

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For the pattern I modified Simplicity 3510; I added fullness and length to the body of the dress and butterfly sleeves. The fabric is a heavier cotton gauze dyed Amethyst pink.   For the printing I used discharge paste again (this method), and really love how soft and solid the printing turned out, I love that smelly stuff!!

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We both are pleased as punch with the final result, I’m excited to do more of these types of collaborations with my kiddos in the future. How much do your kids contribute to the design process when you sew for sew for them?

Sew Kate Sew’s Envelope Clutch

Clutch is a really funny word. Clutch. Like, she felt the canyon wall crumble beneath her white-knuckled grip, so she desperately clutched her shaky hand-hold.   Man oh man do we really cling to our essential clutch-contents just as vehemently as we would our life!  Like, I am NOT going to that movie without my chapstick, Ya’ll. 

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I was so excited to have a go (along with Krista and Delia) with See Kate Sew‘s new (free!) envelope clutch pattern! I’ve never actually owned a clutch, and this was such a great one to start with. It is a breeze to put together, and such a great size and design. And it just takes 2 fat quarters to make, I like that little perk.

For my design I decided to keep up my leaching phase, and do some shibori bleaching. Shibori (for any of you not in the tie-dye-know), is the technique of binding, folding, gathering, etc before either dying, or in this case, bleaching. I wish I would have started with black fabric as it’s the funnest to bleach (more pronounced effects), but I still really loved how the warm brown cotton turned out.  I cut my fabric into a fat quarter, and then starting with the center of the cut, I bound it into interesting designs using rubber balls and these little plastic cubes I have for a Montessori math activity.  There wasn’t any rhyme or reason to it, I just secured those suckers in there: bouncy ball, cube, bigger ball, and then little cubes in a circle all with rubber bands and my daughter’s hair ties, and then stuck it in a pretty concentrated bleach bath (1-1 bleach/water ratio) for about three minutes.  The look is a lot like tie-dye, but the color results are more mono-chromatic and always a bit of a surprise, which is fun.

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I love the earthy tones!
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For the front envelope flap I added a bit of leather fringe (inserted like you would with piping), which adds a nice pop and emphasis to the design.
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I also really like how the clutch looks folded in half, depending of course on what you have stuffed in there. mad mim_shibori bleach_envelope clutch_3 Fringe is just fun, I always say..mad mim_shibori bleach_envelope clutch_4Such a quick and satisfying little project, go make one yourself!

Houndstooth Toggle Coat (of death) for the Girl

Get cozy folks, here’s a tale of toil and sorrow that fortunately ended well:

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This coat (Ottobre 6/12 #29) has been taunting me and my sewing ego since November. I have to say in all modesty, that it was only my sheer will power and general stick-to-it-iveness that brought me through to the end of this project. It’s been one mishap after another,and the heartache started early; I had a devil of a time figuring out cutting instructions, and then cut the whole blasted thing out before I realized that I had forgotten to add a seam allowance! Nooooo! (Since then I got this little gadget that adds the allowance as you cut, so hopefully I won’t have to deal with such a cuss tragedy again.) Anyway, so I had to cut the whole cuss thing out again and choose a different lining because I didn’t have enough of my first choice.

So I recut (luckily I had plenty of fabric) and decided to do some embroidery details because I knew without a little girliness Twinkle might not dig the black and white. That took a fair bit of time, and by the time I finished I had to set the whole project aside to make room for more important Christmas presents.  After that Stretch Yourself dominated my sewing time, and yada yada yada, this coat goes to the back of the queue.

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So finally I got back to it, (now that Winter is almost done!) and couldn’t for the LIFE of me figure out the instructions for attaching the lining. I even went to my friend and sewing mentor Merline to see if she could interpret, but we both ended up scratching our heads in confusion. I think part of the problem was that their instructions were obviously different from how I had done this in the past, and I just couldn’t visualize what they were describing.  I have never given up on instructions, but in the end, I just decided to quit trying to understand how I was supposed to do it, and just do it how it made sense to me. I ended up attaching the lining at the neck seam and down the front to the  zippers, and then slip stitching the sleeves and hem. It worked fine, although it’s not perfect.

So THEN, finally, I’m all done, and it’s adorable, and she loves it, and on the very next day it’s a cold morning and she says “I want to wear my new coat but it’s not warm, Mom.” Cuh. Rap. And she was right too, it was just kinda flimsy. I was super annoyed and frustrated that I didn’t do something about that earlier, but I guess I kept on hoping that it would be fine (the houndstooth is warm and fuzzy (wool??), I thrifted it several years ago–it’s definitely natural fibers).  My sweet sweet friend Jen had been SO awesome and kind to send me some leftover thinsulate she had, which I got after all the cutting drama, and was trying to delude myself that it didn’t need anything extra so I could avoid anymore cutting and use it for another project I had in mind.  Bad move, Mim. So I based up, dug in my heels,  and took the whole cuss thing apart again.

Attaching the thinsulate was not as bad as I anticipated (I assembled an interlining and then attached at the neckline and then hand stitched to all edges), and in the end was so worth it (I was so grateful to have it Jen!) The coat is now toasty and warm and actually looks and falls much better to me. There’s a little wonkiness (especially near the neckline and hood), but it’s really not too noticeable, and overall I’m really happy with it. The ONE down side is that with the thinsulate the coat fits much snugger, and I’m starting to doubt that this will fit her next season. I hope hope hope that she can get at least a little wear out next year…grow up not out, Twinky!

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embroidery-houndstooth-coatThis has been another riveting  episode of “Sewing Tales and Misadventures with Mim”, stay tuned for my next installment inevitably coming all too soon!


Hand-Carving Small Details DIY // Personalized Valentine Stamps

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Growing up my family had a tradition of making homemade Valentines for each member of the family usually involving pop-out accordian style hearts and other little gimmicks. They were so fun, and since we were home-schooled my Mom always went big with the candy so we wouldn’t feel like we were missing out on all those school parties our friends were having.  The Valentines that I treasured the most were my Moms, because I loved to see her be creative (cutting and gluing with us!) and it was so special to get something just from her.  Candy, kindness, and construction paper….isn’t that what it’s really all about?

As an adult its harder to keep the tradition up with my siblings, but I always do something if I can. Last year’s peep-show Valentine will always be one of my all-time faves.  This year I’m gonna take it down a notch, but I still wanted to do something that still says “I made this for you”.

This tutorial is nothing revolutionary really , but after tons of trial and too much error, I’ve finally come up with a few tips that really work well for carving those tiny fine lines and details.

First of all you need to transfer your design onto your carving surface, this time I grabbed a cheap eraser. I’ve shown a couple different ways to do this, but here’s the one I use the most. Generate your design either by drawing it, or in a design program like Illustrator.  With tracing paper, trace over your design with a soft black lead pencil (I use an 8B, but a #2 will work okay) Then with the written side facing down, gently rub the back of the tracing paper with something, I used the metal tip of the pencil, but just find something hard and smooth.   That will reverse your image onto your stamp so that it will print in the right direction. Can’t tell you HOW MANY times I’ve hand drawn a design on my stamp and forgotten to reverse the image!

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Now go find a nice warm place to carve. I recently discovered this trick, and couldn’t believe what a difference it made! I was stamp carving in my in-laws basement next to a toasty woodburning fireplace, and my cutter was slicing into the eraser like butter, much more precise and clean than ever before! (I was carving my kid’s stamps pictured below).  So if you can, sit by a vent or space heater or whatever, and grab the smallest tip from the standard cutter set.

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Go over your fine lines once, and do not try to go back and perfect any of the details.  This is where in the past I’ve been so unhappy with my designs–the cutter tool is not great for tidying up and perfecting, and inevitably ends up taking more than you wanted resulting in sloppy carving.  The trick is, and my daughter discovered this, to use a blunted pointy tip to fix any imperfections. I use what I think may have one day belonged to an eyeglass repair kit, but you could use a large darning needle, the metal tip of a mechanical pencil etc, to do the job.  Run the tip through the groove of your designs over and over and the carving block or eraser will start to crumble away, making it easy to connect, smooth, or deepen your design. I used this technique especially with the itty bitty tiny letters of my last stamp carving project.
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These adorable little personalized Valentine stamps were what we came up with for my kids to hand out this year. I used this technique exactly, but started with their hand drawings which I scaled down to size.  I couldn’t bear the thought of handing out Dora the Explora perforated sheet Valentine’s (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I don’t judge!), but I couldn’t even think about helping them individually make all that they needed to. So this was our happy little compromise, and they’re proud as punch to hand them out.  Truth be told, I planned this whole post around THESE, but once I had edited the photos I realized that they both said my kid’s names on them which I didn’t want to risk floating around Pinterest. Sad because they’re WAY cuter than my stamp (and my stamp isn’t even my best carving job, doh!), but I just couldn’t let that slide, you know? Well you get the idea, anyway.
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 Aren’t they so great? You don’t have to answer that, because seriously, they’re great.  They make me super happy, which is a good thing to be the day before Valentine’s Day.