living handmade

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DIY – little love box

My husband is one of those men who doesn’t want anything for his birthday. So every year I find myself totally lost. I do know however, that he likes handmade things and he really appreciates sweet thoughts (like eloping without the kids for a small weekend or a handmade bag or some very nice sushi for dinner or… well, you get the point!) When I ask him if there is something special he wants, most of the time he tells me: “oh, just give me a kiss!”And this year was no exception, but this time it gave me an idea….
I’m gonna show you have to make “a love box” !! A sweet little something, super fast and pretty much free to make. A little paper box filled with love! In my case, I have written some thoughts on long strips of pretty paper, thoughts that I have about him … oh, I won’t go into details, but it goes something like: “I love looking into your beautiful eyes, I could stare at them all day…” stuff like that.
Here is how I made the box:
We have a lot of different cheese here in Belgium, and many of them comes in pretty wood or paper boxes. That is exactly the kind of “garbage” paper box that we’re looking for here. Something that is made to be thrown away, but brought to life. (I love that!).
I flipped through my huge pile of old design magazines and found this Belgian graffiti fashion shoot that I thought had potential for my little project. I grabbed a Pritt stick (glue) and started tearing small pieces of the photo shoot pages. It was the background I really liked. First I glued the entire top of the box, started to add small pieces, and as I moved on, I glued on the pieces instead before I tacked them down.
The edge of the box was beige brown and I thought it would look better white, so I painted it with fast drying acrylic paint before I continued to glue down my ripped pieces. I found a nice drawing of a man I thought looked like Max and some women that I liked, I glue the man on the top, cut out letters for “Max” and glued the women on the bottom. For a great finish and longer lasting quality, you could add a layer of Mod Podge on top of everything, but it’s not necessary.

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DIY – EASY pillow case

A pillow can change so much in a room or on a sofa or chair. Why not use this super easy tutorial to re-make your bed? All you need is imagination and a little bit of fabric.
What you will need:
How to make the pillow case:
First, let’s look at how a standard pillow case is put together. A pillow case is basically just a rectangle piece of fabric with following dimensions: the width is the width of the pillow plus seam allowance (1,5 cm on each side = 3 cm). The length of the fabric is the height of the pillow x 2 sides (front and back) plus the pocket where we hide /tuck in the pillow, plus seam allowance 1,5 cm + 1,5 cm.
My pillow is 60 cm x 60 cm, so my rectangular piece of fabric measures:
width: 63 cm (60 + 1,5 + 1,5 cm)
height: 143 cm (60 + 60 + 1,5 + 1,5 + pocket 20 cm)
Very convenient as fabric on rolls often measure 150 cm, so if you stick to this formula, it will be easy to calculate the amount of fabric you need to buy. For a standard sleeping pillow (40 x 60 cm) you only need to buy the width measurement 40 cm plus seam allowance. So for 1 meter of fabric on 150 cm width, you get two pillows!
This is how we will put the pillow case together: right side to right side and the pocket folded back over the wrong side.
1. Start by sewing a zigzag on all edges that needs it (that is, not if you have a closed woven side, like above).
2. Fold down the short edge (the width edge) and pin it. Stitch with a straight seam (don’t forget to secure it with a back stitch in the beginning and the end!). Iron flat.
3. Now, let’s fold the fabric like the picture shows above; right side to right side and the pocket folded back over the wrong side. Don’t overlap the pocket fold, it should be folded back onto the same side. Stitch with a straight seam, 1,5 cm from the edge. Secure in the beginning and the end.
4. Almost done (I told you it was easy!!) Iron the side seams open and turn the pillow case inside out. That’s it.
Now stuff that old ugly pillow in there and go and find a pretty place to put it 🙂

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DIY – Comfy fabric slippers

I live in a country where people walk in with their shoes on! After five years in Belgium, I still haven’t adjusted to this habit. I come from Sweden and later I lived in Japan- people in the Nordic countries take their shoes off by the front door, so do the Japanese. For me; outside is outside and inside is inside. I don’t want the dirty ground outside on my floors and Belgian streets are d.i.r.t.y! Dog shit on the side walks, the garbage is left in bags on the streets where we walk and the bags often break so people walk in the garbage! Plus it rains constantly here, so what people actually bring in to my house on their feet is too awful for me to think about. We walk around in slippers or socks in our house. We have a basket of socks for visitors, but I don’t always dare to ask them to take their shoes off… Anyway, these slippers are so easy to make, and really cute! Once you’ve gotten the hang of how to make the pattern and how to put them together, you’ll have an entire basket full of them to give your own guests when they enter your house. Good luck!
What you will need:
* pattern paper
* pen
* an insole or ONE old slipper (for your foot shape) you will mirror it for a left and right foot.
* measuring tape
* sewing machine
* ruler
* outside fabric
* inside fabric
* some sort of padding; fleece or thick wool for example
How to make them:
Step one. Pattern.
1. First thing to do is to copy the base of some old slippers or an insole in one of your shoes (OR you can just draw your foot and calculate the pattern based on the measurements I show you here). This will be your sole pattern piece- the bottom.
2. Now we measure to make the top pattern piece: The top of my slipper is 8 cm and then 8 cm across, leaving a rectangular opening for the foot. Let’s move the measurements over to our bottom pattern piece. First, draw a line in the middle of the sole, splitting the sole in two parts, as centered as you can (as my old pattern-cutting professor used to say: “it’s not rocket science!”). Then draw the above measurement, 8x8cm dividing it around “the center line” or the grain line. We draw all this ON the bottom pattern piece, but that’s ok, we will copy them later! So far, what we’re doing now is called a master draft.
3. Next step is to measure the width of the top pattern piece. On the side of the slipper, I measured 3 cm from the sole to the opening around the phalanges. So we add 3 cm straight out on both sides and draw a nice curve from the center front (CF) to the phalanges (see the blue line above).
4. Next we measure the heel, in my case 6 cm. Then measure the length of the top pattern piece: measure from the center front (CF) to the center back (CB) of the sole and note down the measurement (here 31,5 cm for the outside of the foot and 32 cm for the inside). Draw support lines for the rectangular opening straight down, evenly along the line in the middle of the sole. Measure out from the phalanges, the length of the sides (31,5 cm and 32 cm) and draw out in an angle until you have an end piece of 6 cm (the heel). Always draw ends in an angle, that will avoid getting ugly points where to pieces have been stitched together.
voila! Our “masterdraft” 🙂 As you can see you can really just measure on your own foot (or Grandpa’s) and use the same calculations as I have shown here.
5. Ok, next and final step! Let’s make the real pattern pieces that you can use for slipper, after slipper, after slipper, after slipper….
sole pattern piece- the bottom: trace the black line of the master draft, marking out center front (CF), center back (CB) and the side phalanges and grain line (that line in the middle). You will need this markings to put the slippers together without to much fuss. Draw 1 cm seam allowance around the entire sole.

Top pattern piece: Trace, following the blue line of the master draft and marking out the center front (CF) and another marking straight down CF on the opening rectangle (this will be the grain line), plus the phalanges. These markings will match up with the bottom sole pattern piece when sewing. The center back (CB) marking will be the seam on the heel. Add 1 cm seam allowance all over and curve out the rectangle.

Congratulations! You have made your pattern! Well done for your hard work, but it will pay back when you see the result! It’s a great satisfaction to make things yourself 🙂

Now make a nice little storage for your pattern (in a plastic pocket held in a pretty file holder perhaps?). Then have a break before we continue, maybe grab a cup of tea while you draw a nice design of your new slippers. You can put that in your plastic pocket together with nice fabric swatches!

⸌̷̻( ᷇ॢ〰ॢ ᷆◍)⸌̷̻♡⃛ 

Step two. Making up the slippers.

1. Cutting out pattern pieces in fabric is great with a sharp fabric scissor. All you have to think about is to follow the grain line. My slippers will be striped, but on the upper foot pattern piece, I want the stripes to be horizontal, so I’m placing them crossing the grain line. It is totally ok to do this on plain woven fabrics. Many times this can save fabric and give cool patterned effects on the garment.
So how much do we need? We will need 2 slippers with lining and a layer of fleece in between, so let’s start with the main fabric:
2 slippers:
* 2 bottom sole (against the floor)
* 2 inside sole (against the foot)
* 2 fleece layer (in between the two, like a hamburger between buns)
* 2 upper foot (what you will look at 🙂
* 2 inside upper foot (against the foot)
* 2 fleece layer (in between the two, again, like a hamburger)
That gives us 4 sole pattern pieces and 4 upper foot pieces of the main fabric. So, fold the fabric right side to right side (that gives you 2 layers mirrored fabric = one slipper) and then fold it again (which gives you 4 layers of mirrored fabric, right side to right side = 2 slippers). Now pin down your pattern pieces.
Cut out along the pattern pieces and snip (a small cut) 0,5 cm with the scissor on the balance marks we’ve made on the pattern. Be careful not to snip to far in, cutting where our future seam will be.
2. I want these slippers lined with something warm, so I found an old fleece baby blanket that was perfect. Fleese has no grain line, so feel free to cut where you find space. You don’t have to worry about putting the pieces out mirrored on fleece. You need 2 upper foot pieces and 2 sole pieces. Mark out the balance marks here as well!

3. Lay the soles together like a hamburger, the fleece in the middle and the right side main fabric out. Hold the soles together by a zig zag around the edge or quick quilted lines along the grain line. My fabric is striped, so I just stitched on the stripes. When you put the soles together with the upper foot, it’s easier if the soles are held together.

4. Sewing the upper foot: lay the fleece piece down on the table first, cover with one main fabric piece, wrong side against the fleece and right side up! Then put the second main fabric piece on, right side against the first main fabric’s right side, so that you are looking at the wrong side. Pin the rectangular opening.

Stitch with our 1 cm seam allowance and cut into the corners. (why?) I don’t need to remind you to secure the beginning and the end with back tack stitches, right?
Open up the seams by ironing the seam allowance flat.
here are our finished slipper pieces!
5. Sew the heel together: Grab your heel ends, opening up the ironed down upper foot slipper piece. Put the ends right side to right side and pin down. Match up the seam you just made. Stitch 1 cm in.

6. Elastic band: With your fingers, pull and press so that the opening seam is located on the fold of the opening. Pin the entire opening and stitch about 1,5 cm down from the folded edge. Leave an opening about 5 cm wide, where the elastic band will be inserted.
7. The elastic band can be tight or loose (again, “it’s not rocket science!”). Fold the slipper and take a piece of elastic band 2x the straight part of the opening, as shown above. You can test how it feels holding it around your foot.
8. Put a safety pin through the elastic band and have a pin ready.

9. Start inserting the safety pin into the opening of the channel and pin down the loose end of the elastic band. Many bad words will be said otherwise 😉 Pull out both ends when you’re through, and tie them together. Stitch the opening close.
10. It’s finally time to put them together! Start by pinning on the 4 markings: CB, CF, phalanges 1 and 2 and then pin the rest of the layers down. Work carefully! You have 6 layers of fabric here, make sure all of it gets pinned down! Stitch with 1 cm seam allowance.
11. With all these 6 layers, you will probably have a few broken needles and a bit of a messy edge- that’s ok! Take your super sharp scissor and cut 0,5 cm from the edge and all your problems are gone, just like that!

12. Our final step is to finish the inside seam edge. Now, you can do this in a few different ways: you can put a pretty bias binding on it, you can zig zag it or you can use a serger / overlock. (Or if you made these slippers all in fleece or felt you can just forget this step as fleece or felt doesn’t un-ravel!)

13. Last and final step!!
you’re done!!!!! You will get a big gold star for this, well done 🙂


Making a wedding dress

There is something very romantic and sweet about making a wedding dress for someone… I’m always so happy to be given that honor. It’s also a lot of nerves involved when I make a wedding dress; it has to be perfect for that big day! There is no room for mistakes on white silk and lace…
When I make dresses like this to measure, it’s really “old style”. What I mean is that this is how clothes used to be made at the tailor’s; a sketch, a photo, choosing the fabric, maybe trying on something similar, but not being able to see the actual garment until it’s finished. There is certainly something exiting and beautiful to make clothes like this. It makes me think back on the long history of my profession and why I love what I do so much! I think the best part in working “old style” like this, is that the bride can decide fabrics, style, feeling, length and fit all by herself (with my counseling of course!) This particular dress was custom made for Stacy in Colorado. You can check out the photo shoot she made with the dress in Thailand on her blog.

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How to sew a button

This is probably something that a lot of you already know, but I’ve had some requests for this basic knowledge of sewing, so here it goes! As an example I will use a jeans skirt I changed for my daughter today; with only 3 buttons, I attached easily made suspenders to her super cute skirt. (She loves this skirt, but she complains that it always twists and ends up backside front- this will solve that problem!)

How to properly sew on a button

You will need:

* buttons
* needle
* thread

How to do it:

1. Cut a piece of thread about an arms length. Thread it through a needle.
2. Mark out with a washable textile pen, where you want the button to be (see the blue spot).

3. Stitch FIVE TIMES at the same spot! This is where many buttons breaks or falls off- they have to be properly secured. To do this, pull the thread through almost to the end, leaving as little as you can without pulling through the thread entirely and then start stitching.

4. When your thread is secure, take the button and put the needle through the hole from underneath.

5. When you’ve pulled all the way through, hold the button against the fabric and put the needle through the other hole and then through some threads of the fabric. Repeat step 4 and 5 FIVE times.

 6. Last step is to secure the button again. Sew FIVE times at the same spot and the cut of the thread.


DIY – how to make a skirt from an old sweater

I have this saffron yellow cardigan that was “hand me down” to me by my mother-in-law. I totally love the color, but the fit and the cut… it just didn’t do it for me. I used it sometimes for extra warmth, working in the garden or as a “throw on quickly” garment going to the grocery store, but I never wore it for real… so I thought, maybe I should do something else with it? Like… a skirt!
The below sewing tutorial can help you make fantastic knitted skirts from all kinds of old second hand sweaters and you will have unique pieces of clothing that no one else has 🙂 Anything goes.
How to make a knitted sweater into a knitted skirt:
You will need:
* knitted sweater or cardigan
* sharp scissors
* thread
* elastic band (your waist measurement minus 10 cm)
* pins + safety pin
How to do it:
1. Put your sweater flat following the side seams and shoulders. Make sure that the bottom hem on front and back are alined.
2. Draw a straight line with a ruler just under the arms (depending on the length you want for your skirt) and cut!
In my case my sweater was actually a cardigan, so at this point I needed to stitch the button opening together here before I could continue to the next step. Maybe there is no need to say that possible buttons has to be removed…

3. Zig zag (or overlock) your newly cut edge.
4. To make a channel for the elastic band at the waist,  fold down “elastic band width + 1 cm” (towards wrong side/the inside). Pin down all around.
5. Stitch down the fold, presser foot width from the edge and don’t forget to leave an opening about 5 cm to insert the elastic band. Use a shallow zig zag or straight seam for jersey fabric. If you use normal straight seam, the seam will break.
6. Attach a safety pin to the elastic band and slide it through the opening. Use the safety pin to pull the elastic band through the channel and secure the end of the elastic band with a pin at the opening. (It really sucks to loose the end somewhere inside the channel- all you can do is start over again – that extra pin will help you!
7. When both elastic band ends are out, make sure that the elastic band lies flat and has not gotten twisted inside. Overlap both edges and zig zag to secure, back and forth a couple of times. Pull a little so that the elastic band falls back into the channel and then close the opening.
voila, the result! My new yellow knitted skirt!
want more?
well, I figured those pretty sleeves could be made into something as well… socks! Or leg warmers inside my beige boot (I haven’t decided yet, but I thought it might be best to start with socks that can be cut into leg warmers, than the other way around). This is how I made the socks anyway.
now… what to do with the little that remains ?