etsy shop · Jewelry · Style · Tiny Tweaks

Tiny Tweaks: Fringeless (+ New Earrings Listed on Etsy)

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I’m doing a series of posts called “Tiny Tweaks” – simple changes that make a difference – in hopes of crossing things off my to-do list or simply making things a little bit better. 

In anticipation of fall, I’ve been searching for a lightweight, drapey cardigan, something to grab on those days when chilly mornings turn into warm afternoons.

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I found this one at a thrift store.

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I love the color and knit pattern, but I didn’t like the fringe. I thought I could easily remove it to make it just right – still cozy, less boho. My plan was to just chop off the fringe with scissors.

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I realized once I started cutting that the fringe was just the loose ends of knit at the bottom of the sweater, so if I cut them off, it would fray in to a big old frizzy mess.

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Luckily, the fringe was a separate piece of knitting that had been attached with a serger. I have LOTS of experience removing serger threads.

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The serger thread was a different color and texture than the knitted yarn, so I could easily see which threads to cut with my seam ripper.

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Once I made a few cuts, the fringed piece began to separate from the body of the sweater. But it wasn’t quick work. I took my time to make sure I didn’t pull any yarn loose. It took about an hour to remove everything.

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I texted this photo to my friend, Christy, and said, “I’m removing fringe from a sweater. Why do I do these things? And why did both kids immediately say, ‘Can I use this for an invention? Or for my Halloween costume?'” (So far, the costume ideas are a ninja and a black kitty. No fringe needed.)

“Kids are pack rats,” she responded. So true.

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Perfect. Exactly as I imagined, paired with a vintage sleeveless blouse and cut-off shorts.

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And some new earrings! I’ve been playing around with earrings this summer, trying out different shapes and sizes.

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The new circle earrings are listed in my Etsy shop. (Currently available in silver and bronze – more colors coming soon!)

DIY · It's Not Rocket Science · Jewelry · Sewing · Style

Tiny Tweaks: Sewing a Button

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Tweak (n.) – a fine adjustment to a mechanism or system

Well, the kids are back to school, and in my LOADS of free time (insert sarcasm face here), I’ve been trying to cross little projects off my list.

At the beginning of summer, I got overwhelmed with ALL THE PROJECTS. Every time I walked into our bathroom, I thought about the 20 problems I wanted to tackle in there. Keeping all those ideas in my head started stressing me out, so one day, I walked through the house with a steno pad and made a giant list of EVERY project I could think of. Each room got a page, and I listed everything, big or small, that I wanted to do. It was so freeing to have it all written down. I stopped thinking about every little thing, and walking into the bathroom wasn’t stressful anymore.

It also helped me see which projects were so simple that I could complete them right away. I realized that it was often the little projects that made me feel so much better, so much lighter. These tiny little tweaks – “fine adjustments” – can make a big difference. So I thought it would be fun to share some of these “Tiny Tweaks” in the next few weeks in hopes that they might encourage you to tackle some small projects, too.

A few weeks ago, when we were roaming around the gardens at Biltmore Estate in the humidity-laden heat of August in the South, it occurred to me that I really don’t have enough shorts. Sure, it gets hot in California, but without the humidity, I can easily get by with jeans many days during the summer. (Once it hits 98, though, I’m wearing this dress on the daily.) So a decent pair of shorts – preferably in navy – went on my wish list. Target had a decent option, but they didn’t have my size at my local store. A few days later, I found a cute pair at the thrift store – and on a 50% off day. Score!

But they were missing a button.

No biggie! I’ve been sewing buttons on since middle school.

I know this because, one Friday, when I was in 6th or 7th grade, in anticipation of going to a high school football game with friends that night, I was wearing said high school’s t-shirt layered under a flannel shirt (because that’s what we ALL did). I had to go into the office for something, and I ran into a boy that I had known forever, and he was also wearing a high school t-shirt and a flannel shirt. (It was the 90s. I think flannel was all we owned.) He asked me if I could help him sew a button on his shirt. I told him I could, but that I didn’t have a needle and thread, but if he could find one, I could do it.

And that was the moment I remember thinking that the boys we built forts with and ran through the sprinklers with and played on the McDonald’s playground with were now boys we liked, and everything was all so different. And something that would have meant nothing a few months before – “Sure, I can sew a button on for you.” – now made me feel totally awkward and self-conscious and dorky. Which is pretty much how all of those middle school years felt.

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Anyway, my “new” shorts.

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And a perfectly matching button.

I have a stash of buttons. They are mostly the extras that come with new shirts. I have never had to use one of these spare buttons on their original garment, but I often find a use for them on other pieces. However, recently, BG has gotten into playing with buttons, so I emptied my stash for her. I had to dig through her closet to find one that worked.

Saving buttons makes me feel so thrifty. And also a little old-fashioned. I remember my dad telling me that my Mammaw would cut the buttons off of really old clothes that were destined for the rag bin. And I remember my mom kept her stash of buttons in an old baby food jar in our record cabinet (very much like this one) in the basement. Do you save buttons? Will any of our kids do this?

So, in the spirit of being self-sufficient, I’m going to show you how to properly sew on a button.

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The first thing I do is to mark the button placement. Hold the waistband closed as it would look when buttoned

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Insert a pin in the existing buttonhole until it pierces the underneath fabric where the button will go.

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Carefully separate the front and back pieces of fabric, keeping the pin in the back fabric. This is where the first stitch will start.

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Thread your needle. I’m using a contrasting color of thread – just for kicks. Feel free to use the same color thread as your fabric or button. Wrap thread around your finger and roll thread off of finger to create a knot.

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Pull thread to secure knot.

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I always repeat to make a larger, extra secure knot.

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Flip back fabric over to inside.

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Insert threaded needle as close to pin as possible, coming up from the back side.

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Slide button onto threaded needle through any of the holes on the button.

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Pull thread through hole until knot touches back of fabric.

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Insert needle into hole immediately below hole where thread is coming out.

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Pull thread all the way through to back.

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Looking at the back, I use the previous stitch as a guide to see where to insert my needle again – the same place as the initial stitch, where the knot in the thread is resting.

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Before pulling taut, insert a pin underneath the first stitch on the front of the button. This will leave some space so the button is not too tight and will button and unbutton with ease.

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Repeat up and down stitches through the same two holes a few times (I did 4).

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After 4th stitch, keep thread at the back of fabric.

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Use a pin to locate the top hole on the other side of the button. This will once again give you a guide for where to insert your needle.

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Insert needle through the back of the fabric and come up through new hole in button.

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Pull thread through and insert needle into hole directly below the hole you just came up through.

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This will create a second vertical stitch on the button.

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Repeat the same number of times as the first stitches.

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To make the button more secure, we will wrap the thread around the stitches behind the button but in front of the fabric. With thread pulled to the back of the fabric, come back up through the fabric but not through the button.

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Wrap thread around stitches behind the button several times. I did 6 wraps.

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Insert needle back through the fabric behind the button.

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Pull through back side of fabric.

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Trim thread and tie off loose pieces in a knot. I usually do this 2-3 times.

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A nice, new, secure button with a little pop of color.

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I’m also playing around with some new ideas for bracelets for my shop. I cut apart old bangles and added some vintage beads.

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I love the colors, but I’m still tweaking the design. I’ll keep you posted on what I end up with.

And I’ll make sure they pair nicely with a flannel shirt.

 

DIY · etsy shop · Home · Jewelry

“Free” Shutter!

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This is the story of a happy marriage.*

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I found this shutter on the side of the road just down the street from me. I was driving with the kids when I saw it leaned up against a stop sign. I did a U-ey in the middle of the street and went back to inspect. It turned out to be a louvered folding door (but I’m still calling it a “shutter”), so I had to put the middle of the back seat down and slide it through to the front seat in order to get it home. The kids didn’t flinch – they are used to me picking up random things and attempting to fit them in our car. At this point, I wasn’t even sure how I wanted to use it, but I was sure it was quite a find and that I would come up with something brilliant for it. (Cue Husband snickering in the background.)

(Also cue BB doing air quotes. BB learned about air quotes at the beginning of first grade and spent much of the year using them incorrectly, mostly to quote how he is really feeling. (This dinner is “good” when it’s his favorite, this movie is “funny” when it is, in fact, really funny.) However, in the last week, he has used them correctly 6 times in a row. He is so proud.)

The shutter lived in the garage for a few days, and then it moved into the house so I could try it out. The best idea I had was to put it in my work corner (see more here and here) to hold completed jewelry projects to list on Etsy. I didn’t like it white (it’s right next to the door that leads out to the garage – also white), and I thought about painting it black, but I decided it would be “fun” (air quotes) and might look best stripped down to its natural wood – a contrast between our charcoal gray walls and white Hoosier cabinet work table.

Have you ever stripped shutters or louvered doors? Because, WOW.

Our first attempt involved our neighbor’s pressure washer. After talking with the neighbor and watching YouTube videos, I was sure this would be a very simple and quick method of paint removal.

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It was not.

You can see in this photo the small chips of paint removed in the middle of the far left edge. That’s all that came off. I was not deterred.

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I bought a can of paint stripper spray and a stripping tool. Husband volunteered to help me with this project, a decision he would later come to regret.

He applied the spray, and we quickly realized I had grossly underestimated how much paint stripper we would need. I headed back to Ace to buy out their entire stock.

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Here is one side after a couple of cans of spray and A LOT OF TIME scraping the paint off with the little scraper tool. Husband scraped one side, and I scraped the other.

Husband: “You know what they say about the couple that strips paint together….”

Me: “They are divorced in 3 months?”

Husband: “Exactly.”

I won’t tell you who did which side, but one of us was certain the remaining paint and stripper would come off after another round with the pressure washer.

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It did not.

And here is where the photo documentation of this DIY project ends. Because it’s really hard to take photos of endless rounds of sanding off paint and stripper. One becomes completely engrossed in the project because one is determined to actually finish this before the children leave for college. Suffice it to say there were multiple sessions on multiple weekends of sanding and sanding and sanding (with various grit sizes) each of those little, tiny slats of wood, attempting to remove all traces of orange from the crevices and joints from the front and back of the shutter.

At one point, Husband says, “Do you have any idea how many man-hours this project is going to take?”

I do a quick calculation. “Maybe 25?”

“Ha. Do you know how much my man-hours are worth?”

“Not as much as my woman-hours are worth,” I replied.

I think I got the side eye and some words muttered under his breath.

I had already decided I liked the look of some of the white paint remaining – to remind me of the blood, sweat, and tears we put into the project – so as I finished up the last 3 rounds of sanding, I was careful to not remove every last bit of paint. Besides, I didn’t want it to look like I had just gone to Home Depot and bought an unfinished folding closet door – what would be the “fun” in that? (“Heh,” Husband says.)

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But then it was finally finished. I immediately moved it back into the house and put it to work.

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I used S-hooks from the hardware store to hang the necklaces.

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The earrings hang from their own hooks.

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We are a week out on finishing this project, and now that the tingling in my sanding arm has mostly gone away, I can say that this DIY was definitely a learning experience, if not a “fun” one.

*Also the title of the book I’m currently reading.