Browse Category: Do It Yourself

Dress For Yourself

Kismet DressThere are days when we try very hard to get dressed, be fashionable and feel confident but it simply doesn’t work. I have these every now and again, usually due to the realization the outfit will be too warm or too cold, which then sets me into a frustrated state trying to come up with something more appropriate. On this particular morning, I had let some negative remarks made by others (jealous perhaps) get to me and it completely brought me down. I had curled my hair, then heard their negative opinion regarding my hair in my head – I ended up washing it out. I styled up my outfit, then heard the negative comments about the jeans not being their favourite. All these road blocks just from hearing other people’s opinions that were not my own.

I try to promote dressing well in general. I’m not trying to say what you should or shouldn’t wear, but rather help those that need inspiration on how to style the pieces you have or clothing you like. Maybe the jeans you’re wearing aren’t your friend’s favourite, but the point is, they’re yours. They don’t realize you like them, you like the colour, you like the way they feel and how you feel when you wear them. People are very opinionated.

This outfit came from a morning of tears and frustration, negative remarks I overcame with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I was given this green and light pink print dress by Kismet a few months ago in hopes I would be able to create something with it. I decided to try it on and wouldn’t you know it – aside from the length it was actually a very flattering dress! To my surprise I instantly felt more slim, the lumps and bumps were minimized by the wild print… I plunked down at the sewing machine and took it up a few inches to a more flattering length and voila!

I had not worn my pink Danier leather jacket since last spring but I would need a warmer layer for at the store. It really did wonders to pull the pink out from the dress! Styled up with a cozy knit scarf and my DIY leg warmers! I had this American Eagle sweater for a few years – I tried wearing it a few times but ultimately it was too short and probably shrunk. I hung on to it for no particular reason, maybe thinking one day I’d be a size 3 again – but in a matter of seconds, the decision was made and leg warmers were made! A quick stitch around the edge to hold the yarn together and chopped the sleeve away from the sweater. Done and done!

From Flare to Straight

GAP JeansYou know that feeling you have when you try on a pair of jeans and they feel amazing? No pinching, no crotch-biters, no saggy lines, no muffin top… They just look awesome?

I recently discovered by chance the perfect fit jeans for me, GAP 1968 “Sexy Boyfriend” jeans are it. Now these bad boys retail for $80, which I wouldn’t pay even if they were the greatest fit ever, that’s just not me. But $20 at our store? Hells yeah! So my first pair made me deliriously happy, so I went to Value Village on a hunt for this particular pair of jeans. To my surprise that first attempt I found one pair that were also a form of boyfriend jean, in a lighter denim, and a second pair that were a more flared leg style.

Unfortunately with my height, I can not easily pull off a flared leg or the “long and lean” style simply because my feet are barely a size 6. The leg width swallows up my tiny feet! So the jeans I found on my hunt fit great at the hip and thigh which is my hardest place to fit first try without alterations. I wore them once to work but felt like they weren’t quite right. It occurred to me a month later the issue was just that my feet are too small.

Having discovered the issue I was able to test out a solution: transforming the flared leg into a straight leg. I’m certainly you just tilted your head to the side and said “Whaaaa?”

Altering Jeans Altering Jeans
Having Saturday to myself I put them on and began to pin. I wasn’t quite sure what I would need to do but I thought pinning folds would be a good place to start. I ended up doing the legs differently at first, and when I sat down to sew noticed that one was folded nicely with the original seam hiding the fold. So by the time I went to sew the second leg I redid the pinning to have the same finish.

Altering Jeans Altering Jeans

With the denim being dark it hides any sort of flaw in the stitching or folds from the dart I installed near the knee. The end result I was actually really impressed with, you do not see the fold at the top, and the bottom is folded over so it is rather seamless!

Bridesmaid Dress Alterations

Wedding AlterationsA friend of mine had planned a rather “quick” wedding, as in, she didn’t spend a year deciding on a location or colour palettes and all the extra details of what seems to be the trend nowadays. She fell in love with a simple strapless light powder blue dress that all of her bridesmaids agreed on.

During their first official try-on session, they all decided they did not need any alterations. Then a few short weeks later, the week of the wedding as a matter of fact, they began to realize they weren’t quite perfect. The girls were all a different size and different height.

My friend sent a text on the Tuesday asking if I would be able to look at them for her, to which I of course replied with a self-assured: “I’ll have a look!” Honestly not knowing if I had anywhere near the skill level required to make whatever alterations would be required. When the bride and one of her girls came to my home I was not sure what to expect. But I was thankful it wasn’t a floor length sequin filled gown!

After lengthy discussion we decided to try lowering the hem on one of the dresses so that it fell to the same place around the knee that the second one did. It was simply due to the presentation, the 5’8 girl looked slightly more scandalous with the short length compared to the 5’3 girl.

My mother decided up front that I was insane, not something new to me of course! But a friend needed me so by-golly I was going to find a way to make this magical transformation happen! Haha – okay I may have exaggerated, lowering a hem may not be that exciting. The process took four hours that same evening all done by hand. The saving grace of this project was how poorly the dresses were made in the first place if you can imagine that. As awful as it sounds the zipper seams had already opened with one try-on session, the overlay for the crinoline wasn’t even sewn down. I’m sure if I had just left the zipper seams as is, you would see the crinoline exposed!

So first step was to tackle the hemline, which was pinned over and over just to make sure the poofy hemline was not disturbed. I used the unwanted sash that came with the dresses to add a layer underneath which would be sewn into the lining and connect the bottom, while hiding the crinoline which remained untouched. Using this extra piece I was able to lower the hem by about three or four inches! A relatively simple fix actually all said and done. Hand stitched in place so guests would be none the wiser that any change had been made.

In this photo you can see the crease from the lowered hemline.

Tutorial: How to Close the Gap!

I have come to believe that all clothing is made to fit a variety of shapes and sizes, but that “fit” might not be what’s best for you no matter what you try. We are not built the same, our bodies retain weight in different areas and we sometimes never lose or gain it in the places we hope for. For instance my shape is very hour glass, my thighs and hips are a healthy size – small waist – and then back out for my ribcage. Now most would think this is an easily flattering womanly shape to have, but if you are this shape, you know that isn’t always an easy task.

I cannot speak to all shapes but having seen thousands of women try on clothing at the store, I know its very few and far between when an outfit fits your shape perfectly first try. More often than not is the “model-esque” bodies that appear to look the best in everything, but that is mainly the result of these women having essentially no body fat or curves to worry about. The clothing appears to hang loosely off their body as the designer probably intended. Often we will sigh and say the designers these days just aren’t making clothes to fit “real” women, when really we should be saying to ourselves: this doesn’t work for me, but there will be one that will.

How to Close the GapIn my case bottoms are a real challenge. I have a sizable behind, wide hips and thick thighs – but my waist is very small. Naturally I have to go a size up to fit in the thigh and bum. This also means I will have a lovely gap at the back of my pants due to the serious difference in size between said tush and waist area. Luckily there is a rather simple fix to this issue, so long as you are will to spend a few minutes sewing!

How to Close the Gap I’m now at a point where I don’t really have to measure the amount that it needs to come in, its a rough 1 inch typically. After analysing the fit of the pants in the mirror I estimate how much needs to be taken in. Flipping the pants inside out, I can fold the amount that needs to be removed from the top of the waist to the point where it will meet my bum. This is the length that the “dart” will need to be.

How to Close the Gap Now that you have an idea of how much space needs to be removed, my first step is to unpick the label that is inevitably sewn right into the back of the pants. If you’re lucky it’ll be screen printed to the actual fabric and you won’t have to do this tedious task! Once the label is out you will have an easier time removing the belt loop. Set it aside for reattaching later.

How to Close the Gap With the belt loop off and the label removed you can now fold the centre back of the pants at the seam. I like to fold it tightly and pin so that it doesn’t shift, making sure the reverse side seam is lined up. This isn’t crucial its just a nice little detail to be aware of. I often forget!

How to Close the Gap With my sewing machine I begin with a stitch that runs from the top of the fold (in this case about 1 cm into the fold) and angle the stitch slowly toward the edge of the pant. This so called “dart” makes the alteration taper nicely, unnoticeable even!

How to Close the Gap Once your folded stitch has been completed – I usually do it a max of 2 inches long – try the pants on to see how they fit. If all has gone smoothly you won’t have to make any further adjustments. Worst case scenario you’ll have to remove the thread with a seam ripper and try again either folding more fabric or less, perhaps making the length of the dart longer or shorter depending on the issue.

IMG_7116 And finally, once you are completely happy with the adjustments you’ve made you may (if you want it to be permanent) trim the excess from the fold and reattach the belt loop by stitching it on manually.

Redesigning Your Shoes

ACo FlatsI’ve talked about the wonders of redesigning your footwear a number of times but I have revisited it quite a bit lately for two reasons:

1. The store doesn’t sell my size in the colour or style I want.
2. I realize after the fact that my toe nails dig into the end of the shoe.

Most people would be afraid to attempt such a feat, but I however, love a challenge!

Ardene is currently having an 80% sale storewide so I took the opportunity to see what they had in regards to my beloved flats. Yes not the most comfortable in regards to standing all day long without support, but they seem to be the only shoes I can wear. After perusing the nearest store, I found only 3 pairs of size 6 in the entire store. If I hear a woman with larger (8, 9, 10) sized feet come into work and complain about there “never being any shoes in my size” I will flip my lid!


Redesigned Shoes I managed to find blah beige flats that would be great for painting. As you can see with this work in progress shot, it sure isn’t hard to paint a pair of simple flats! These are a very cool gradient from white to mint blue! I have prepped a second pair from stone to white and still have one more pair that I haven’t decided what to do with. Perhaps maybe pink?


American Eagle Navy Flats My second issue with footwear is the fact that my toenails point upwards, at least on my big toes. This you’ll find, digs a hole into the top of the shoe! Even if I have them filed down it still seems to happen, its just the nature of my feet. This latest pair of navy blue flats I thought were too adorable to pass up, and at the time fit quite well.

Unfortunately when I got home and wore them around with a potential outfit, I noticed my toes were starting to pinch in the usual area. So taking inspiration from another pair I had altered, I grabbed the scissors and created a new pair of peep toes!

Vintage Redesign!

Vintage RedesignI finally wore my vintage redesign project dress out on the town on Saturday night and it occurred to me I had never blogged about this wonderful creation of mine! To be honest I was very surprised at how comfortable the dress turned out to be! It all began with a very dated dress from Value Village. On half price days I like to pick up what I call  “project dresses” that I can redesign and create into very stylish new pieces. This dress is one of my greatest challenges and successes.

The dress I found was a high neckline (which I love!) and 3/4 sleeve with a lovely shimmery black and pearlesque print fabric. Although the dress was several sizes too large I spent several hours making adjustments the the shoulders, removing shoulder pads first off – then stitching them into a somewhat Lady Gaga effect.

Now the original dress was awkwardly long and simply had no appeal for me. The second thing to go was the black section at the bottom. Conveniently the dress was made in such a way that was easy to alter. The great challenges arose when I decided to make it an open back. Unfortunately I felt disheartened by my sewing skills and inability to structure it the way I wanted to. Due to the mass of fabric and lack of strength within itself, I was forced to add strips of lace to the back to keep it from sagging.

Vintage RedesignIts amazing what a few lace details can do for a dress! I opened up the sleeve slightly as I often find the upper arms on tops and dresses too tight. The bottom of the dress was finished easily with a black lace trim which was also added to the arms. It was certainly a lot more work than I had originally anticipated, but I feel that it turned out beautifully!

Vintage Redesign

Vintage DressI have a keen interest in re-inventing dated styles and turning them into modern fashionable pieces. My latest find was based on fabric alone. One of my favourite colours is mint, and this dress by Quintieri has a beautiful mint blue and pastel yellow print. During my recent Ottawa thrifting adventure I found this vintage dress deep in the mess of dresses at Value Village.

Surprisingly when I actually tried it on at home it fit almost perfect without alteration! I did take in the shoulders a bit due to the seams beginning to shred and decided I wanted it raised up to a more flattering knee height. Silly me didn’t measure properly, as I tend to do because I do it by pinning the dress while wearing it, so when you bend over you end up making it shorter than you think.

Vintage DressI was excited at the thought of having a scarf of the same fabric, but after cutting and hemming I realized it was way too short. So I scrapped the additional scarf idea and began sewing the remaining trim fabric into a rippled effect along the bottom. Now the detail at the bottom of the dress is feminine and playful.

Because the fabric is quite light I decided to pair it up with a brown sparkle sweater from Urban Behaviour to wear to work. When I returned to Kingston I popped into Value Village and saw this light yellow vintage necklace, normally I would debate price but I just had to have it for the finished look!

Happy Accidents

Le Chateau DressTo the untrained eye, this is just an adorable pleated skirt. Now let me fill you in with the story behind it.

I am guilty of not often bothering to try outfits on at the store, usually the reason I do spend the time is because I think the price might not be worth it. This particular dress by Le Chateau I did take the time to try on. I was instantly in love with the bottom of the dress with the three rows of adorable pleats.


Le Chateau DressLe Chateau Dress


Well the dress fit just fine in the store but I wasn’t too crazy about how the sleeves felt. I get home try it on again and decide that the sleeves needed to be redesigned. I spent about an hour first thing in the morning adjusting the sleeves, essentially removing them altogether and adding the design elements back on afterward.

Once the sleeves were complete I tried it on ready to wear to work. It was like the top half had doubled in size. A thought occurred: I had tried it on wearing two tank tops and a thicker padded bra. If this was to fit I’d need a pair of DD’s which isn’t happening any time soon! But I was still infatuated with the bottom, so in typical Pam style, I grabbed the scissors and make a drastic design decision.

Le Chateau Dress Le Chateau Dress

Within moments I had created the beginning of a vest and skirt both cute but in a whole new way. At this point I was going to be late for work if I didn’t sort this out so my quick and easy solution for this new skirt was to pin the unfinished-freshly-cut top to a thick belt. Voila! Totally cute and one of a kind pleated skirt.

You’ll never guess how many compliments I received all day long. Now when anyone comments I have a great story to go along with it!

The Purple Couch

The final verdict comes with mixed reviews. Personally I think they look fantastic and unfortunately (for Mom!) it makes me want to source out more cheap furniture to recover for my new place. Luckily it takes time and a great deal of preparation to take on this task. You can expect I’ll have something very cool planned out for the new year!

Reupholstered ChairReupholstered Chair



Mom’s greatest challenges were the hand-stitching, pulling the thick fabric in such a way that it wraps the shape of the couch or chair precisely. The couch is still in the works but is certainly useable, just don’t get too close to the arm rests as they have tons of pins sticking out! She said if she were to do it again she would be more particular about the fabric choices as the one she found for the chair was a far better, stronger upholstery fabric. The couch fabric was an after thought and based on the amount required she thought the material would work the same as the chair. Apparently it is a lot less durable and more thin which long term won’t be the greatest.

Reupholstered Couch Reupholstered Couch

What was the greatest challenge you faced?
“Trying to cover it properly without running out of fabric because I wouldn’t be able to get more… I start projects without realizing I don’t have enough material!”

If you did it again, what would you do differently?
“I would use stronger fabric on the couch. I don’t know that its going to last, just doesn’t seem durable enough. I’d also pick a fabric with more pattern to it.”

What do you like most about the new look?
“The colours and the updated design. They look artsy, no longer looking like the old pieces of furniture that we’ve had forever.”

What do you like least (if anything) about the new set?
“The fact that the dog hair sticks to the couch!”

Giving Your Shoes a Facelift!

It can be pretty expensive at times even when you thrift, to keep up with the latest styles and trends. Some days we even find ourselves caving and rushing to the mall and spending a fortune because at that particular moment – you HAD to have them! Honestly I do not recall an instance where I was thrilled with my decision to do this – and nine times out of ten the item sits in the closet because I found something better thrifting several months later.

Painted Shoes Painted Shoes

One thing that I have always found interesting about friends is their shoe collections. Not to mention the widely acknowledged joke about women with far too many shoes. Because of my uncommon tiny foot size, fat-less ankle and high instep, finding a size 5.5 shoe that doesn’t look like grandma’s is a very difficult feat. Lately I have noticed my feet shrinking even more, combined with the wear and stretching ability of thrift footwear.

Painted Shoes Painted Shoes


Two years ago I was invited to a military ball. As you may or may not know, these are very formal events usually requiring an expensive gown of some sort. You know me, to Value Village I went! Lucked out with the dress but the footwear was impossible as always. I found myself going to Spring and dishing out a pile of money for gold sequin wedges – quite simply because the sparkle pumps I was hoping for I couldn’t walk in! I am a dancer so I need something I can dance all night in. Wouldn’t you know it, the guys wanted to leave the ball before the dancing even started!

It was a pointless purchase as cool as they were, I never wore them again… until one day I decided I wanted a pair of nude/fleshtone shoes to wear with my dresses. When I go out on weekends I like to have some height so I typically wear either a medium heel or my J.Lo wedges which always grab attention due to their huge size. Believe it or not, they are the most comfortable bar shoes I have ever owned.

I got out the paints and decided to attack these sequined beasts in hopes of improving them. I was never going to wear gold sequins, the outfits one could wear are just too limited to justify owning such a pair of shoes. So I mixed paint over and over to achieve my skintone in acrylic paint. It was certainly going to have a textured effect which was just fine with me. I gave them a good two coats, even changing the colour a second time so it was more accurate.

After the two coats I did a light sealer of clear gloss medium in hopes of giving it a more finished look. Honestly that step should be repeated as it was a very thin coat. But I wore them out that weekend and they went over really well! They didn’t stand out and by extension, made my legs look longer.

The topic of painting shoes came up at the office one day last month, as to whether there were techniques and methods of doing it successfully. I didn’t really have any answers just my basic acrylic application – so I decided to do a little research! I found three great articles that are very interesting for making your footwear more exciting!

Refinished Headboard

I’ve been watching Kijiji for some time collecting pieces to form a real bed. I started with the expensive mattress purchase which was a house-warming gift from the bank of Mom & Dad. I’m not exactly fond of living a student lifestyle with a mattress on the floor so after about a month I started searching for the rest of the pieces. I was looking for a double bed frame first which I found quite easily within a week or so of beginning my classifieds monitoring for $10.

Unfortunately that day it decided to snow and like most Prairie provinces the wind was not kind. But being the trooper that I am, I found my way into the scariest suburb of Medicine Hat, mounted the bedframe onto the top of the Tuscon and tied with the cheapest rope known to mankind… All while the woman and her family stood in the window and watched. I did have a man approach me and offer to drive it to my house in his truck but at this point I was still on my independent woman high.

DIY Headboard DIY Headboard
I got that off the car, up the stairs into the bedroom and adjusted to a double size, only to realize that slats are required or a boxspring – which I did not have. Funny how you don’t process the structure of something when you’ve always just arrived and it has been pre-constructed for you. As resourceful as I am, I searched in my minimalist apartment for a makeshift way of elevating the mattress until I obtained a boxspring. Success! Two unused wood shoe racks (that I use as regular shelving) laid on their side would do the trick. They were taller than the frame mind you so it was a good few weeks of teater-tottering. Another week passes and I find a double boxspring for $15 from a gentleman trying to get rid of some of his parent’s retro furniture he had been left with. Gawd awful 60’s floral? No problem. Luckily I had a friend (aka Superman) bring his truck and assist (by assist I mean do all the work for me because I’m useless)… in the end the poor guy wrecked his back for a good two weeks being all the muscle to get the thing up those stairs on his own. My bad!

So with the bed established I was pretty content with it but I kept my eye open for a head board as I had always admired them, the iron style that you really only find in a twin size and extremely pricey. Early this week I found a posting for a $25 black and gold metal headboard. Compared the prices I had seen recently this was a steal! Luckily I can look past the outdated style of the black metal with cheap gold accents and look at the overall shape and style. All it needed was a coat of paint! I went to Rona, got myself a small can of flat white Tremclad, a sponge and the bolts required to install it. Sadly my measuring and overall understanding of the bolt construct was very off – so tonight I’ll be going back and hopefully finding some that are half the size! There is about an inch of space after it has gone through both holes, followed by an inch of actual grooves where you twist the nut onto. So the headboard is currently attached but not well.

DIY Headboard DIY Headboard
The painting process has taken a few days as it takes a long time to dry, not to mention covering a black metal bar with white paint is never an easy job. I still feel after 5 coats it could use another one or two, seems even when you think it’s dry – you can still move the underlying paint around with your new coat. Ugh. Being the impatient girl that I am I was dying to see what the finished product would look like – so with half painted white hands and the strength of my knees to lift the bedframe up to the proper height for the bolt – I attached it to the frame minutes before I expected to sleep.

Always a healthy idea to use very strong paint that probably should only be used outdoors – in your living room so you can get high on paint fumes while watching tv. Then like the genius you are, move the object you’re painting into the room where you are sleeping so that you can kill the maximum amount of brain cells you can in a day. I did leave the bedroom door open so there was a bit of ventilation and I slept with my feet against the head board so I wasn’t as close to it and didn’t paint my hair in my sleep!

It is by no means finished as I had bigger ideas for a more fun look for it aside from flat white. My grand scheme involves ribbons but I have been unimpressed with the price of such things!

Shoes Get the Death Penalty

Destroying My ShoesSometimes even shoes you love, must be subjected to the death penalty. No electricity required, just scissors or a garbage can. I tend to push the limits with my clothing, especially my shoes. Thrift shoes are both wonderful and not at the same time, as this footwear is already worn in so they tend to be far more comfortable than new – however this also means their life span is a lot shorter than you would expect. Both a positive and a negative in their own right.

Don’t get me wrong I loved these white flats with the ankle buckle, it really pained me (quite literally!) to have to enforce this terrible fate. The first few times I wore them they were perfectly fine, but due to the slick lining my feet did occasionally slide or sweat. Very strange sole I can honestly say I haven’t seen a shoe like it. The last two times I gave these shoes a chance at life they tore up my toes in the most excruciating and annoying way possible. No three strikes for these bad boys!

 

I did happen to find a pair of 725 Originals white (replacement) flats at Value Village last week. Very simple and sweet. So I took those home and later that evening decided to take the buckle flats off the shelf. They didn’t go far, just to the floor as I decided what to do with them. It then occurred to me the part I liked about them was the ankle buckle – unfortunately I’m not able to redesign these new flats with the same ankle design but I could reconstruct them to be a decorative addition to the toe of the shoe. As it exists now, the design at the toe is a simple knot which I will be removing and attaching the buckle piece across in its place.

I didn’t have my glue gun handy so I couldn’t do this all in one go, so it is still a work in progress. I cut the buckle flats in such a way that they could be worn, by removing the toe completely – which is what was cutting my toes in the first place and removing the back zipper as well as the buckle. I plan to see if they are salvageable by painting them, adding either an elastic or ribbon to the back where the zipper used to be… I’m not 100% sure what I’ll do, but what’s the worst that can happen? These painful shoes go in the garbage!