DIY: The Hutch

Not long after I closed my business last summer, I started a big DIY project. To be fair, I started a lot of projects during that time. I spent five years in business completely neglecting a number of areas in my life, including my home. If you know me at all, you know that it takes something major for me not to spend time and energy on the spaces in which I spend a lot of time. Looking back, the business was pretty major and naturally consumed every minute of my day and all the enthusiasm I could muster. Anyway, that’s all behind me now. I’ve always loved making my home pretty, livable, and functional. I’m no pro at it; I just like pretty spaces that make me happy.

A few times a month, I swing by our local Salvation Army. I originally started doing it because you never know when you might find a great piece of vintage clothing, but I kept going back because this particular SA has an incredible selection of furniture. Now, being on a budget (who isn’t, really), this was a great way to score a new little something without breaking the bank–even if I did have to repair a seam or buy a can of paint. I’ve been really, really lucky with my finds. Scroll through my Instagram photos and you’ll see a white and blue striped couch in my studio. $90 (and $50 to have it cleaned), Salvation Army. The big gold framed mirror I take pictures in front of? $25, Salvation Army. (Side note: that mirror weighs about 60 pounds, and I’m pretty sure it’s 50+ years old. It was a legit find, you guys. I love that thing.) Add to that countless pieces of clothing (most with the price tags still attached!), knickknacks here and there, an adorable side table I painted and put in the living room, pieces of art, and, of course, The Hutch.

Ty and I are not big drinkers by any means, but we had a basic stock of booze that was slowly outgrowing the one cabinet we were keeping it in. I’ve wanted a bar cart for ages, but never found one that I loved or that was reasonably priced. Enter, The Hutch. I knew the moment I saw it that we were destined for each other. The great part is that the top shelf part wasn’t permanently attached, so I can go back and paint it later, reattach the bolts, and ta-da! We’ll have a hutch. For now, I use the shelf for storage in the garage, and the bottom part for the booze. From start to finish, this project took me about 5 weeks. A lot of that time was waiting for coats to dry, but I spent a good two solid weeks sanding the damn thing. You would not believe how not fun that can be in early fall 90-degree heat in Texas. I’m really, really glad I put in all that effort though, the end result is worth it. Sanding times a million, two coats of primer (three on the top), three coats of paint, new hardware, felt in the drawer, and wallpaper in the interior.

(Please excuse the not pretty pictures and the mess that is our garage.)

Isn’t it darling?! I saw its potential a mile away.

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The top shelf. I might paint it to match one day. The thought of sanding it makes my head hurt, so for now it sits in the garage.

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After I sanded it, I excitedly ran inside to have Ty come look at what a fantastic job I’d done. Yeah, I had a lot more to go.

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I removed all of the old hardware. It wasn’t in great shape, and I knew I was going to replace it.

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I filled in the holes with a wood filler and sanded it down before I primed. Worked like a charm.

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After two coats of primer, the painting begins. I used Kilz primer and Behr paint in ‘Sparrow’.

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After coats and coats of primer and paint, I laid the paper in the drawer and shelves. It was easy but tedious. Lots of measuring and precise cutting to make sure the pattern matched exactly. I found the paper on clearance at JoAnn, and I ended up using two rolls. You can still buy this there (and other craft stores and Home Depot, etc.), but I think this particular pattern is unavailable.

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Hardware was a big decision. I knew I wanted brushed nickle or platinum, but it took some time to find drawer pulls that matched. Three of the previous hardware was two-hole hardware that happened to be a very specific width.

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New felt for the drawer.

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Finished! (And no, we don’t smoke or use those ashtrays. I just think they’re pretty!)

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Looking at these pictures again has inspired me to start another project. Salvation Army, here I come!

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summer reading

I love reading. Getting lost in a good book is one of my most favorite things to do. I come from a family of readers, and I’m glad I’m a member of that club. Reading is such a pleasure, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of opening a new book and turning the first page. Remember getting a summer reading list as a kid? Best thing ever. I have such fond memories of long sunny days at the neighborhood pool and nights with a book and a flashlight under the covers. I know well the feeling of fighting to stay awake because your book is just that good. I also know what it feels like to power through and stay awake half the night to finish a story. I always paid for it the following day, but it was always worth it.

For the most part, I like to read to learn something, so books on history of fashion, economics of consumerism, marketing and aesthetics, and the business of fashion are what fill up my shelves, but I enjoy a little bit of fiction every now and then. (This is on my nightstand right now.) Here’s a round-up of some of my favorites, for you fellow bookworms.

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A Perfect Fit. This one just came yesterday, but it looks fantastic. It’s all about American ready-to-wear and the importance of clothing in shaping our social history.

The Lost Art of Dress. I read this last fall, and I could not put it down, you guys. It is magnificent. We’ve gotten so lazy and sloppy as a society when it comes to style and getting dressed, and this book is all about a time when things were dramatically different, and it spotlights the “Dress Doctors” who helped women dress stylishly, appropriately, and on a budget. I will read it again.

Fashion on the Ration. I bought this book at the gift shop at Churchill’s War Rooms in London in March. This book is about the British rationing program during WWII, and it includes diary excerpts from women during that time and what they did to make their clothes work. It’s absolutely fascinating to learn about the coupon system, the overwhelming hit the fashion industry took during the war years, and how everyone–designers and consumers alike–did the best the could with what they had. It’s a must read. I read the entire book in one 9-hour flight. Couldn’t put it down.

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Overdressed. I mentioned this book countless times when I was in business. I don’t think people truly understand the damage cheap, fast fashion has had on the fashion industry and our environment. This book will (hopefully) inspire you to think a little more carefully about your clothing purchases. Quality over quantity.

The Substance of Style. A good, if not textbook-y read about how thing look has influenced shopping habits, design, and marketing. Interesting.

Wife Dressing. You know what they say: don’t judge a book by its cover! Read a few of the reviews for this book. I’m about halfway through this one, and while some of the advice is a little outdated and basic, it’s a fun read with helpful tips that still apply today.

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History of the Paper Pattern Industry. This is especially interesting to me lately, as I’ve gotten back into using store bought patterns since I closed my business last summer. After spending more than five years drafting patterns from scratch myself, it’s been a nice change of pace having the work already done for me! Some pattern companies have been around since the 1800s, and I’m excited to dive in and read about this subject.

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Happy Reading!

 

tools of the trade

Drafting and altering patterns is a big part of most of my projects. I truly enjoy this part of the process–it’s like working with a giant puzzle. It can be a big challenge and quite time consuming, but there is a feeling of satisfaction having figured out how to manipulate a piece of paper to become the vision you have in your mind. Also, getting things to fit properly is kind of a big deal. More on that later.

I have a set of slopers (or “blocks”, as they’re sometimes called in the industry) that I use to draft patterns from scratch, but I also use store bought patterns and adjust them to suit my needs. Either way, knowing how to do this will allow you to create pretty much anything you want. And that’s why we design and sew, right? Right.

In future posts, I’ll go into greater detail about how exactly to manipulate patterns, and I’ll include quick reference charts for things like circle skirt measurements, but today is all about the tools you need to adjust or draft patterns for your projects.

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#1. Rulers and scissors. I know there’s quite a few in the picture above–and I do use all of them–but the most important rulers can be found at your local craft store. You will need: a yard stick, a basic ruler with 1/8″ lines, a hip curve, French curve, and a flexible ruler. My blue ruler is a 2″ x 18″ design ruler that you can find at Hobby Lobby for $8. I’ve had it for ages, and it’s the best thing ever. It’s lightweight and easy to use, but tough enough to hold its own against a rotary cutter. The hip curve ruler and flexible curve can be found at Joann, and the French curve and yard stick can be found there as well. Don’t forget Scotch tape.

The following is very important and should go without saying: Do not use the same scissors to cut fabric and paper. I have three pairs of fabric-cutting scissors (plus leather and embroidery scissors, and a couple others), and they never go near paper. I use industry paper shears, which are big and heavy, but I can’t use anything else now. You’ll get used to them.

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#2. Pencils, pens, tracing wheel, erasers, notcher, hole punch. My first pattern design professor recommended 0.5mm lead mechanical pencils, and for good reason. The lead is more fine than most other pencils, but that makes for a cleaner line. Every once in a while, I’ll grab a standard pencil or one with 0.7mm lead, and it’s not cool, you guys. Trust me on this one. I use bright Sharpies to label my patterns, an industry tracing wheel (much better than the one sold at Joann), pattern notcher, and hole punch–which can be found in the paper crafting section at Hobby Lobby. I use the compass to mark the bust circle, but it’s not an everyday necessity.

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#3. Paper. Dotted or grid paper can be found online, but to save time and money on shipping, I buy rolls of white craft paper from my local Teacher Heaven store.

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#4. Slopers. If you’re interested in drafting your own patterns, you can do this two ways. Buy a set of slopers or a basic shirt, skirt, and/or trouser pattern. Eliminate the seam allowance and you have a basic block from which to design as you please. (Of course, test the fit of these things beforehand.) I bought a set of slopers from String Codes Designs many years ago, and they have served me well. There are also resources aplenty online about drafting your own slopers.

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Finally, storage and organization. My dad built a huge table for me a few years ago, and he used an old work table as the base so I have a shelf underneath. This is where I store my rulers, supplies, and pattern books, and I keep the items I use most often in a tray that I can easily slide out and put on my workspace when I’m knee deep in patterns.

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It’s important to have the right tools for the job, patternmaking included. Hope this helps you figure out what you need, and let me know if you have any questions. Happy Wednesday!

 

new beginnings

Hello and welcome! My name is Emily, and I’m a designer. I’m so happy you’re here, and I’m even happier to share my design journey with you.

A few years ago, I started a business. After studying design and product development in college and dreaming about having my own company, I took the leap and started my own business. For five years, I designed and sold a line of women’s clothing and accessories. Those five years were some of the best of my life, but also some of the most stressful. Last summer, I walked away from a life of entrepreneurship, and I rediscovered my love of sewing and design on my own terms. Not a day goes by that I don’t sketch a garment, sew a seam or two, or jot down an idea for a project. It’s what I love.

This space is all about creativity and learning, and I’m excited to share my projects with you: everything from sewing tutorials (basic skills to advanced concepts), projects for my home, pattern drafting and alterations, and lots and lots of clothes. Thank you for stopping by, and I can’t wait to get started!

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