Ever wonder what could become of your unused clothing?  Turn them into new clothes!

A long skirt can be turned into a top.  I took a long patterned skirt with green lining to create this tank top.  I wanted the green fabric to be the majority of the shirt and the patterned fabric to be the accent.  I also used the patterned fabric to make the skinny straps.


Two pairs of pants can be turned into a vest.  I took a pair of grey pants and a pair of black pants that I no longer wore and made this vest.  I used leftover lining from a previous project to line the inside.  I used the black pants to create the ruffle around the bottom.


A man’s old button-up shirt can be turned into an apron.  I used the back piece of a man’s old button-up shirt for the main part of the apron and used the sleeve and front fabric to make the straps.  I had some satin fabric left over from another project to trim the pocket and make a flower for flair.


So go into your closet, pull out something that has been hanging in there for a year, and bring it back to life!

“Longing” and “Ribfest” will be available at auction at the 2011 Feed My Starving Children Chicagoland Gala and Silent Auction on Friday, April 29.

The Road to Paso Robles and The Dog Who Lost the Poker Game at the Reflections Gallery in the Aurora Public Library Eola Branch from April through June!

Recently, I decided I wanted to experiment with oil pastels so I researched the available brands.  I was looking for something with acceptable quality without breaking the bank.  From my research it seemed that there was no middle ground for oil pastels.  There are many brands that are inexpensive but poor in quality and then there are the professional grades, such as Sennelier and Holbein, which are very expensive.  I concluded that the Cray-Pas Expressionist oil pastels were the highest quality inexpensive brand for me to experiment.

I have a 12 color set of Cray-Pas Expressionist oil pastels from a drawing class I took last year and figured it would be easiest to just expand my color base.  I went to Dick Blick to pick up a 48 color or a handful of assorted colors if they had them individually for sale.  Unfortunately, they only carried 12 and 24 color sets.  After talking to the sales associate, I came to the same conclusion as before, that Cray-Pas Expressionist would be the best inexpensive set, but Dick Blick didn’t carry the colors I wanted in the store.

After that, I went to Hobby Lobby to see if they carried the Cray-Pas Expressionist oil pastels.  They did not, but I found Gallery Artists’ Soft Oil Pastels by Mungyo in a 48 color set.  I went home and researched them to see if they would worko the trick.  Apparently, Mungyo is known for making student grade Gallery Oil Pastels that are quite unsatisfactory.  The Gallery Artists’ Soft Oil Pastels are their new artist quality line and I was able to find a couple of reviews saying they were decent so I decided to try them out for myself.

Gallery Artists’ Soft Oil Pastels by Mungyo are creamy, vibrant, and extremely easy to use.  Cray-Pas Expressionist oil pastels pale in comparison.  Not only that, Gallery Artists’ Soft Oil Pastels by Mungyo are a steal.  Dick Blick carries a 12 color set of Cray-Pas Expressionist oil pastels for $10.99.  Hobby Lobby carries a 12 color set of Gallery Artists’ Soft Oil Pastels for $6.99.  My 48 color set was $14.99 with my 40% off coupon. 

If you’re looking to experiment with oil pastels, I absolutely recommend Gallery Artists’ Soft Oil Pastels by Mungyo over Cray-Pas Expressionist oil pastels.  See the difference for yourself!

My goal this year is to finish these paintings……..do you have a favorite that you want to see finished?


            Have you ever really thought about where your food comes from?  Whether you have or not, I recommend reading the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver takes you on a year long journey through eating off of the land.  She walks you through the experience every step of the way and allows you to truly appreciate the majesty of Mother Nature while discussing the current issues of our food system.

            Recently, our nation has been dramatically concerned with the rising prices of fuel.  Many of us try to cut back in our driving by taking closer vacations and carpooling or taking public transportation.  But have you ever noticed how the food in your kitchen plays a part?  Consider the California tomatoes you purchase, they travel thousands of miles using a great amount of fuel and energy to keep them “fresh.”  I expect that there are truly fresh tomatoes at a farmers market within 20 miles from your home.  Try the local tomatoes.  Even in the grocery store, if you have the choice between apples from a neighboring state and apples from a far away country, choose the one more local.

            Not only does choosing local foods help reduce the negative impact on our environment, fresher food tastes better.  When I was a little girl, my grandmother had a raspberry bush in her backyard.  I used to eat the berries right as soon as they were ripe.  To this day I have not tasted a raspberry with so much flavor.  I long for those raspberries.  To me, they are the epitome of summer.  The book includes several recipes to help you take advantage of produce that is in season, which you can find at www.animalvegetablemiracle.com.

            This book also further instilled in me the desire to know exactly what I am putting in my body.  Studies have shown that free-range eggs and commercial eggs have significantly different nutritional properties.  The same goes for beef.  The information in this book and other research I’ve done has pushed me to make sure that my food does not contain added hormones or genetically modified ingredients. 

            I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s best to leave plants and animals as God intended them.  What a concept.  At the end of the day, you are what you eat: a hormonally injected and genetically modified being or fresh, local flavor.


This bread recipe has replaced my need for store bought bread!  It’s so easy and can be done in an afternoon with about half an hour of actual work.  I adapted it from Meghan Monahan’s Honey Wheat Bread recipe at http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/honey-wheat-bread-ii/Detail.aspx.  I changed All-Purpose Flour to Bread Flour.  The bread flour makes the deliciously chewy quality of bread.

I recommend using Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Flour and King Arthur Bread Flour. 

Yield: 2 loaves


2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1/3 cup honey

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 cups whole wheat flour

4 1/3 cups bread flour


Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add honey and stir well.  Mix in whole wheat flour, salt, and vegetable oil.  Work bread flour in gradually.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 15 minutes.  When dough is smooth and elastic, place it in a well oiled bowl.  Turn it several times in the bowl to coat the surface of the dough and cover with a damp cloth.  Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough.  Shape into two loaves and place into two well greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.  Allow to rise until dough is 1 to 1 ½ inches about pans, 30 to 45 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes.

Place bread onto a cooling rack.  Do not cut into bread until it has fully cooled.  Freeze one loaf and save for later.

How to know when you are done kneading:

When you can stretch a small piece of the dough into a very thin, translucent rectangle without tearing it, you are done kneading.  If you knead the dough by hand, you cannot knead it too much, so just keep going!  Also, when the dough is done, it will be smooth and when you press it slightly with your finger, it will bounce back.  For more information, go to http://www.wikihow.com/Knead-Dough and http://www.make-your-own-bread.com/kneading.html.

How to know when your bread is done:

Your bread should slide out of the pan on its own when it is turned upside down.  The bottom will be hard to the touch.

Why Sew???

  • Clothes Fit the Way they Should

Standard store clothes rarely fit me in a way that is flattering and exactly as it should be.  For me, shopping has turned into more of a chore than a fun activity.  It is crazy that all women supposedly fit into a handful of sizes, which don’t allow for different bust or hip sizes.  Sewing allows me to create clothes that flatter my shape and fit correctly.

  • Halloween

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday.  I love dressing up in crazy outfits.  Because I know how to sew, I’m not confined to whatever is available in stores.  Whatever I can imagine I can create.

  • Bring Old Clothes Back to Life

I’ve become more conscious of myself as a consumer and my impact on the world.  I don’t like to see things go to waste.  Now I can update old clothes by embellishing or adding to them.  I can also combine multiple old pieces into something new.  I feel innovative, creative, and thrifty!

  • Become More Self-Reliant

I have great respect for people who are self-sufficient.  My mother’s side of the family moved from Norway to homestead in North Dakota at the turn of the 20th century.  They built a farm, a home, a life; you name it, they did it.  Even if it’s comparatively a small accomplishment, I feel good that I can hem, alter, and create my own clothing.  No more taking clothes to the tailor!

  • Get Exactly What You Want

Have you ever gone into a store and found the perfect shirt if only it was in a different color?  Or the perfect dress but they don’t have your size?  Or the perfect skirt if only it was a different length?  Sewing gives you the power to take that image and create it exactly how you want.  I get more comments on clothes that I make than clothes that I buy.  Why?  Because they express my personality, fit the way they should, and I feel great wearing them!

This winter a co-worker of mine took a knitting class and raved about it.  She brought in her book Stitch ‘n Bitch by Debbie Stoller and showed me all of the projects she was working on.  She made it sound like so much fun and I wanted some kind of wrist warmers while I worked on my computer at night.  Like I need another hobby…but I couldn’t resist!  She taught me the basics and I started Googling knitting patterns at night.

I found the best website for knitting patterns, which made me even more excited about knitting, www.garnstudio.com.  Garn Studio features DROPS Design patterns and the patterns are free!  They also have fantastic tutorial videos that I continue to use.

To learn the basics, I made this scarf from the pattern I found at http://knitswellwithothers.blogspot.com/2002/02/alpaca-furry-goodness-scarf.html.

My hands were still chilly, so I found a DROPS pattern I loved.  It was definitely trial and error learning how to work circularly and do a cable pattern.  They are not perfect, but they get the job done.

My husband saw my warm hands and wanted some of his own.  He didn’t want the cable, of course, so I altered the pattern the best I knew how and made him black wrist warmers with a ribbed pattern.  Now his hands are warm too!

While my parents visited this summer, they bought me a sewing machine.  When I was little, my mom always made my Halloween costumes from scratch.  No matter what I wanted to be, she would find a way to make it.  I loved it!  When I wanted a specific Homecoming dress, she would make it.  For my wedding, my grandma made my veil and attached it to a hair comb with white flowers.  My dress was cream with champagne trim and she dyed the flowers with tea to match it perfectly. 

When I have kids, I want to be able to make them any Halloween costume they want.  I want to be able to alter and hem clothing without taking it to a tailor.  I want to be able to create clothes that fit perfectly.  I want to create the clothes I imagine in my dreams.

I’m just a beginner…these are my first projects.

While my mom was in town, she helped me go through a project from beginning to end so I would know the gist of the process and be able to navigate a pattern on my own.  I chose an easy full length summer dress and added a belt.  The fabric is so breezy and comfortable.  I can’t wait for summer to wear it again!


After that, I tried some small projects on my own: a black vest to wear with a long-sleeve knit shirt or a button down, a cropped eye-lit jacket that looks great with a white tank top in spring, and a scarf from some fabric left over from a dress.  However, my favorite project so far is the plaid dress.


Then I started wondering if there was anything I could do to spruce up old clothes in my closet that I didn’t wear anymore.  I had grey pants and black pants that I didn’t wear anymore and I made them into this vest!  I used the grey pants as the main part of the vest and the welts and the black pants for part of the lining and the ruffle at the bottom.  The only thing I bought was the buttons.


I want to turn more of my old clothes into new clothes that I feel good about wearing.  If you have any ideas, please comment!