Home Anxiety: The Kitchen

Introducing a little series that highlights the things that send me straight into space around the house/condo when I take more than a second to look at them. Here's THE KITCHEN:

There's obviously one insane thing happening here, and that's THE CABINET FRONT THAT FELL OFF ON THANKSGIVING. I love my husband so much, and he's so wonderful - since then he's fixed both the washer AND dryer on separate occasions, and helped me move my studio on New Year's Eve, and he cleans the house and is just all around wonderful, and I mean it. Unfortunately, this is one project that I'm hesitant to tackle on my own because replacing the little things that hold that faux drawer front on are surprisingly precise, and he was a cabinet maker and is much better at the really careful things, but he's had his hands full and THIS IS MAKING ME INSANE

But the real issue is that these cabinets need to be replaced entirely. Unfortunately, I can't get anything similar from Ikea, because their standard measurements are all wrong, and anything custom is $$$$. And everything needs to be aligned with the sink and ... uuuugh.

And then there's the backsplash, which is really just the wall painted black. Guys, just throw a filter on your house, and it will look AMAZING. In real life, you can see the grooves in the wall where the upper cabinets used to hang and soap splashes on the wall. It's so luxury. The paint was always intended to be temporary, and that was fine for awhile, because I wasn't sure what I wanted. But I figured it out, and what I want is .... this herringbone tile in black:

With a black grout, I think this would be modern and graphic while staying true to the history of the building, which was built in the late 'twenties. My only hesitation is this particular tile is 1 x 3" and I would really like something a bit bigger. But, for the price - $11.95/sq ft - this seems like a totally viable option. And I'm ready for it to just be on my wall already.

I'm ready for the entire kitchen to just be done, so I can move onto other obsessions, like the porch and our bathrooms.

Kristin's Beaded Gown: Design and Fitting

This (beautiful, kind, dream-client) bride came to me after having looked all over town for a gown with a dramatic silhouette, embellishment AND coverage in the bodice and sleeves. She has a wonderful figure - slight, but with curves - and wanted something that would enhance her shape, not just cling to it, but she couldn't find anything that checked all of those boxes while also having structure and elegance.

I put together a few looks for her, and we agreed on a gown of silk/cotton Mikado with a dramatic fit and flare silhouette and sweetheart neckline, covered in the most gorgeous, hand-beaded Chantilly lace. The lace neckline is high and wide, plunging to a deep-V in back, and the waist is nipped in with a thin band of matching Mikado.

Here's a peek at shaping the back at the first fabric fitting. Can you get over this Mikado and those curves?? Perfection. The Mikado is backed with a layer of cotton, by the way, which gives it a depth and softness. It will then be lined in a lightweight silk. When I'm lucky, I'm able to use the cotton from the muslin fitting to use as the backing in the finished gown. This only works on structured silhouettes obviously, but it really elevates what is already a holy smokes gorgeous fabric.

In the bodice, the waistline needs to be shortened, the princess seams need some taking in and the smaller pinned darts on the sides are marked for ease. Instead of sewing darts there, I'll use a twill ribbon along the neckline to take in all of that excess. It allows the full shape of the cups to remain, but brings in the top to perfectly hug the body. It's one of my favorite techniques, and it works wonders on all necklines, creating a high-end finish. I'll write a separate post with a tutorial and some notes on shaping below the bust as well.

My first attempt at the bodice overlay was made in a fine netting, to use as a base for the beaded lace, but the fit was a bit too tight (see the bunching along the arms), and the more I looked at the heavy, beaded lace, the more I worried that the thin netting wouldn't be substantial enough to support it. THEN, I found just enough leftover Chantilly I had from a previous project, and the two looked so great together, I decided to layer them. Can't wait to see how it comes together. Just wait until I show you how that beading is coming together on the skirt! Uuuuuuuugh. Amazing.

DIY Sewn Fabric Grape Bunch Tutorial

Work on my vintage blue velvet restyle has picked up a bit since my last post - something about sharing in-progress photos makes me worry about being judged (guys, I've decided this is the year that I just publicly claim "artist status" and dive head first into my paranoia, fear and insecurity, instead of trying to convince you all that I am a well-adjusted person. HELLO IT'S ME.), so I felt the need to hurry up and demonstrate what's happening in my head. Anyway, funny thing here is I don't even like grape motifs - I actively DISLIKE them. Why I created a giant bunch of grapes to hang from my shoulder is beyond me, but making the thing has been so satisfying that I'm fully invested, and will be making another shortly, because the thing about one bunch of grapes is that it always needs another for balance. And now that I've really sold the idea, perhaps you'll want to make some for yourself ...


Step 1: Begin by cutting a circle out of your fabric and running a basting stitch just inside the outer edge. Pull up the stitches until the edges meet and stuff a bit of batting inside for shape. Close with stitches through the full thickness of gathers.

Step 2: After you've made a number of "grapes" decide on the overall shape of your bunch and run your needle and thread throughout to secure, keeping all of the raw edges to the backside.

Step 3: To cover the raw edges, cut a piece of matching fabric and secure around the turned edge with a whip stitch. This can now be molded into a more natural, curved shape.

I made three separate bunches, which I gathered into one large shape and then finished with two velvet leaves. I don't know that the separate, smaller bunches are necessary, but it does give it a nice full shape that is easily molded. I'll probably do the same with the next one.

At this point, I'm very aware that this could veer straight off into "vintage" mode, which I don't want at all, so I'll need to add some more modern, structural shapes in my embellishment. And I think the grapes need to be actually HANGING - like from a vine - to keep them more weird and less prissy. I'm also planning to restyle the neckline a bit when I open it up to repair the gathers. Maybe a mandarin style collar? Or a super gathered high neck? I look best in higher styles, so that would probably be best for me. WE'LL SEE ...

Blue Velvet Re-Style

I recently thrifted this vibrant blue velvet dress, and even though I wasn't totally in love initially, the $4 price tag made it sort of a no-brainer purchase. It's a basic unflattering sack dress, so I was essentially just buying it for the fabric, but I didn't expect it to be a perfect fit and actually sort of exciting in the bodice and sleeves (on my body anyway - looks prudish and a touch medieval on the form). It was home sewn, and needs a little cleaning up around the neckline (the gathering is uneven and starting to unravel a bit), but there's so much possibility.


Image via Vivian Elise Vintage

I've been wanting to sew more fabric embellishments like the incredible silk flowers on this 1930s wedding gown (via Vivian Elise Vintage), and by cutting my dress into a dramatic, high-low top, I'll have tons of fabric to use for all sorts of flowers and berries and things. And keeping all of the embellishment in that same blue velvet will allow me to build it up and play as much as I want without it feeling too busy or fussy. Or it will give me the right kind of fussy, anyway. 

I've started making little fabric grapes by cutting small circles of velvet and gathering up a basting stitch around the outer edge. I stuffed a little batting inside and closed it up with a few stitches across the top. I'll likely also dab a bit of glue or fray block there to strengthen and seal the edges. I like the way they look when I bring all of the raw edges together into one bunch, but I'm still not sure how they'll work just yet. I'm leaving my options open at the moment and making a bunch of stuff to be assembled together later.

Next I'll move onto mimicking the flowers on that incredible vintage gown and I'll probably also make some structured loops to layer in between. I'm imagining it all cascading down one of the shoulders, or both, or the sleeves - not sure yet, but I'm super excited to see where this goes.

This is a personal project, so ... uuuuugh .... give me time. 

Beaded Lace Chemise - Complete

This was a quick project, but I'm really happy with the results. I went back and forth so many times about the neckline finishing and whether or not to use bows, and if I used them, where should they go? Should there be one bow? Two bows? Is black too much? Should I add some of that beaded border from the bottom into the neckline as well? Does the organic edge on the lace look too prairie? What am I even doing? Does everyone know I'm a fraud??


But, eventually you have to just say 'DONE' and either accept it and feel marginally good about what you've made, or stuff it in the back of your unfinished projects bin and hope someday in the future you'll know what it needs (even though you're probably better off tossing it in with your to-be-donated pile, because if you hate it now, you'll likely hate it always. Trust.).

But hey! I like this! I imagine wearing it with a pair of suuuuper high-waisted, black, skin-tight flares with the largest bells imaginable, maybe/definitely covered in flowers, with a black longline bra. Not prairie AT ALL, just very romantic and totally sheer and beautiful. I even love it over a black turtleneck and jeans, which I learned completely by accident while taking pictures of the shoulder detail, trying to decide if the bows were a 'go'. So, even though it's very frilly and lacey and beaded and flowing, it's still fairly versatile.

Of course before all this, it will travel with Tamara Gruner to Provence to be photographed on some gorgeous model in a dreamy chateau. Cannot wait to see what they do with it. 

Beaded Lace Chemise - In Progress

Tamara Gruner, a wonderful fine art wedding photographer, will be hosting a workshop in Provence this spring and has asked to take along a few of my pieces. She needed a look for their 'honeymoon' editorial, and I had a bit of this really beautiful Chantilly lace we used last year on a veil - it's very lightly beaded on the lower edge with an interesting floral pattern - and I thought it would work well gathered and draped into a flowing chemise.

Lace can really hold volume when it's gathered (as shown here before I did any cleaning up), which isn't exactly the look I'm imagining. I had to be mindful to make the gathers clean and uniformed, stitching over the gathered seam allowance twice to make sure it was nice and flat under the neckline binding. A steaming on the dressform helped it relax a touch, and with wear, the fabric will begin to soften and lay more gracefully.

I used the beaded edge as the hemline for the body, but there wasn't enough for the sleeves, so I cut along the pattern in the lace, creating an organic, winding edge. 

To give the neckline a little movement, I added a narrow, ungathered band of lace with the same finishing there as well. Because it was a straight piece of fabric, traveling along a curved neckline, I needed to make some cuts to relieve any bunching. I removed sections of netting between the lace patterns, which allowed it to lay flat and flutter a bit.

Aaaand .... this is when I began to lose my mind, thinking the entire thing was getting way too crafty or 1980's prairie or something equally horrible.

What am I DOING TO THIS VERY EXPENSIVE LACE?? Sharing the results tomorrow!

Fashion, Interiors, Construction, Inspiration, Tutorials ...
Chicago fashion designer blog

... that's everything, right? Not sure what else a person could need, but that about covers what we'll be discussing here. You may know me from the once-semi-popular, now laid-to-rest, My Hands Made It, a blog with essentially the exact same focus, but ... younger. I was planning a wedding, making my first few dresses and building my business from the very ground up, while decorating a rental that was never quite right. Now I'm ... OLDER, married, a mother, transitioning my business into something that brings me more joy with less stress and more stability (please tell me that's possible) and decorating a home we own and love.

This blog will be dedicated to high-fashion construction and home design and tutorials, and I hope it will become a place to inspire and excite you. I'm really looking forward to making weird and beautiful things for myself again, and I'm excited to share the process here. Please subscribe to the blog for updates - I've got some really gorgeous things already underway!