Category Archives: DIY

Where to find fabric in Pittsburgh, PA

When I moved to Pittsburgh, I didn’t expect to find such quality fabric and notions sources (it certainly doesn’t have a garment district (I miss you Philly!)), but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that this small city has its fair share of independent and unusual fabric stores.  If you don’t want to trek up to Joann’s in the north hills, here are my favorite options for shopping small and locally.

Firecracker Fabrics // Morningside
1745 Chislett St

Firework fabrics has an incredible selection of garment fabrics for such a small store. They also have a large selection of indie patterns, regularly host sales and scissor sharpening, and the proprietor always offers great sewing advice. Firework is attached to Cut and Sew Studio, which holds sewing classes and camps for all ages and volunteer sewing events to make gowns for cancer patients. If you’re taking a class at Cut and Sew, Firework makes sure you have the right supplies. And if you’re just dropping in, this is a great place to get ideas and fabric.

Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse // Highland Park
214 N Lexington St

A thrift store for crafting supplies, Creative Reuse has a large fabric section in the back. Fabric is available in pre-cut sections or by the yard. Selection changes frequently, so check often! There are also tons of buttons, patterns, zippers, trim, yarn and other things you didn’t know you wanted but will give you creative inspiration. Prices are marked down compared to other stores in the area, so plan a visit if you’re sewing on a budget. While you’re there, walk around the corner to check out Construction Junction for surplus and salvaged building materials.

Loom // Strip District
2124 Penn Avenue

Loom sells high-quality apparel and upholstery fabric. This is the most pricey of the places I’ve visited in the city, but it’s worth it for the quality of their selection and the incredible eye of the owner. They have an excellent selection of special occasion fabrics. The store is spread over two floors of a brick building in the grungy-turned-trendy Strip District (where you can also buy Steeler’s gear to your heart’s content). While you’re there, stop in across the street at Penn Mac for some delicious cold salads or one of the nearby food stands for banh mi or canolis.

Any other places you like for fabric or yarn shopping in Pittsburgh? Add in the comments and I’ll link in the post (and probably plan a visit, too).


DIY pot holders

Another project I made this summer was potholders. They are such an easy and quick project (and they make good gifts). The longest part was waiting for the heat-insulated fabric to arrive in the mail.

DIY pot holders

I used this tutorial to make the square pot holders, and adapted it for the oval ones. Blue fabric is leftover scraps from a Maya dress I made, wood grain fabric is from Quilt Sandwich, and green is from Firecracker Fabrics.

Pot Holder DIY

Not the most beautiful job I’ve ever done with bias tape, but very functional.

Pot Holder DIY

Simple Panel Curtain Tutorial

DIY Curtain Tutorial

I moved into a new apartment a few weeks ago. It is big and airy, centrally located, and- my favorite feature- it has a balcony (all meals= eaten outside). My bedroom windows have a nice view of the street, but they are east facing and the blinds are not enough to keep out that morning light. Not good for sleeping in. So, I made curtains for those naked windows.

DIY Curtain Tutorial

Curtain Tutorial

I used  58″ wide home dec fabric (gifted). This was wide enough to cover the width of my windows. Unless you’re planning on washing them later, you don’t need to pre-wash and dry the fabric. Many home decor fabrics are treated with scotchgard and only need to be wiped clean. Alternatively  you could line quilting cotton with muslin or use sheer fabric for your curtains. The basic premise for these curtains is that you calculate the length you will need to fold back for the hem, header, and curtain rod pocket. You add this to the target length of the finished curtain (how long you want the curtain to be when it’s finished). Then you fold and sew and end up with curtains! Here are the calculations:

A couple things you need to ask yourself before you start calculating the length of fabric you will need:

  1. where do you want your curtain to end?
  2. do you want a header on your curtain (the frilly part at the top)? I added a 2″ header to my curtains.

add together:

  • distance from the top of the curtain rod to where you want the curtain to end.
  • height of the header x 2
  • 4 inches for a 2 inch hem (turned under twice)
  • width of the curtain rod + 1″
  • 1″ seam allowance

My curtain equation was: 66+4+4+2+1=77″

  • 66″ length
  • 4″ = 2″ header x 2
  • 4″ for hem
  • 2″ = 1″ curtain rod +1″ <- value “B”
  • 1″ seam allowance

*you will also need to remember the sum of the last two numbers (value B + seam allowance), plus the height of the header (for my curtain, this number was 1+2+2=5). This is value “A”.

Curtain Tutorial

Once you’ve cut or ripped your length of fabric, it’s time to sew.  Turn the selvages toward the wrong side of the fabric, then pin, sew, and iron in place. Turn the hem under twice (~2″ each time), then pin, sew, and iron in place. Measure “A” inches from the top of the curtain panel and turn this to the wrong side (right side facing out).  Sew a seam the height of your header from the fold (eg 2″). Measure “B” inches (eg 2″) from this seam and sew another straight seam parallel to the first. Iron in place. Then hang your curtain!

DIY curtain tutorial diagram

It took me a couple evenings to make these curtains. The hardest part was making sure they were exactly the same length, but this was remedied by careful measuring throughout the folding and pinning process. Good luck with your curtains.

DIY Curtain Tutorial



Finally… socks!

knitting socks

Every crafter has a bucket list of things she or he has always wanted to try. Today, I can proudly cross an item off of my bucket list. It has been three months since I first wrote this post detailing my intentions to knit a pair of socks. And what a journey. Sock number one took two and a half months. Sock two took two weeks (it is amazing how fast the process goes once you know what you’re doing).  The process was only slightly complicated by the cat’s infatuation with my yarn ball.

knitting socks

They’re not perfect, but they’re mine. And I have all the memories from four months of knitting and purling row upon row of tiny stitches. The winter I was 25 will forever be memorable for all the cold mornings I stayed in bed to knit myself a pair of socks. Should I ever find myself in need of another pair of hand-knit socks, I know how to make them. Another tool in the toolbox!

The pattern I used was the Campfire Socks pattern (free on Ravelry– and I wholeheartedly recommend it). The yarn was gifted to me by my friend Adrienne, who also graciously answered countless questions (merci mille fois!). In the end, the cost of these socks is the cost of the $2 knitting needles from the craft store. Not bad for what was one of my longest running and most favorite projects.

knit socks

I love these socks. The thick railroad rib pattern gives them great stretch and recovery. The thick wool yarn is warm and cozy. I somehow managed to avoid the dreaded “holey gusset syndrome” after turning the heel (my favorite part of sock knitting), so these socks are solid.

I think I will stick with knitting; I thoroughly enjoyed the process of making these socks (perhaps more than sewing? Don’t tell my machine). And I’m sad to think that I will not have another knitting project to pick up after this. Any suggestions for sock or other knitting patterns? I’m considering trying to knit two socks at the same time from the toe -> up.

knitting socks

4 easy car DIYs


Nothing makes me feel like a can-do woman like working on my car. When I say working, I mean the little stuff, like jumping my roommates car when her battery dies, or knowing how to plug in a new lightbulb when my third brake light goes out. There’s something about getting hands on with all those tons of steel that scratches my DIY itch in a whole new way.  My best friend in this car fixing expedition is YouTube. It hosts a wealth of videos that show how to fix everything, including cars. I’m not ready to mess with brake pads, but here are a few things beyond filling my tires with air that I’ve easily mastered with the help of YouTube.  You can too!

1. Jump a car battery: Don’t wait for AAA to arrive! Next time your (or your roommate’s) battery dies, jump it yourself. All you need is a pair of jumper cables (good to keep in your trunk) and a working car. Check out this video for a simple explanation of how to do it:

2. Change the cabin air filter: I was shocked when I went poking around behind my glove box and found a soot black air filter that looked like it had never been changed. The cost to pop down to my local Pep Boys (or other auto parts store) for a new filter was less than half the price of paying someone to change it. And it was super cool to see the guts of my car that hide behind the glove box.  Read step-by-step instructions here.

3. Change headlights and tail lights: the bulbs are cheap! Pick up a couple headlight bulbs at your local dealer (my car is a Civic, so I go to the Honda dealership) for about $4 apiece. Look in your owner’s manual or watch a video for the explanation on how to change the bulbs. Car and Driver Magazine has a great YouTube channel with helpful videos. Here’s one of them:

4. Check your tire treads: I used to go to Firestone to get my oil changed and then freak out when they would exaggerate how imminently my car needed new tires. BUT. Now I can debunk their sales ploys using only… a PENNY!  Hold a penny so that Lincoln is upside down, then stick the penny between your car’s tire treads. If the treads cover any part of  Lincoln’s head, you’re good to go. If not, it’s time for new tires. Read more on the penny test here.

Learning how to care for my car has been really freeing. Cars are something that many of us depend on every day to live, to go to work and get groceries. I like taking responsibility for something I rely on so heavily, even if I know/knew next to nothing about it. Part of this journey has been getting comfortable asking a lot of questions, and the people who fix cars (they know their stuff!) have always been helpful. I want my car to last a long time and continue to carry me on my adventures, and caring for it properly is a big part of that.

All images and videos remain property of their original owners

Ladybugs and Licorice

Fabric Swap Hoopes Park Studios

Marilla had this wonderful idea a couple months ago to organize a special fabric swap. But it wasn’t any old fabric swap- it was a hand-printed fabric swap. Time to break out the stamps and fabric paint!

My swap partner was Charlotte of English Girl at Home. She is one timely seamstress, because only a couple weeks after receiving the fabric I sent her, she has already made a cute, mod-style dress out of it!  It is so cool to see my fabric being worn.

Before I start rambling about my printing process, here’s what she sent me:

ladybug print

Oooh, aaah. Chambrayyyyy. With ladybugs. It’s simple but thoughtfully detailed- just my style!

*Update 9/26/14- Here is a link to the full fabric swap round-up. Some gorgeous fabrics were made. I’d highly recommend checking them out*

Read on for more about my dyeing and printing process.

Continue Reading

Wire-Wrapped Wine Glasses

E-photo 3

I’m always looking for creative, budget-friendly wedding gifts- especially since I’m of that age where my friends are starting to get married. My mom mentioned that a friend’s daughter had decorated wine glasses and I liked the idea. I made these glasses for my friend who got married last weekend (I also made the dress that I wore).

E-photo 2

What I used:

  • one pack of 10 yd permanently colored copper wire
  • glass and metal beads

For each glass I cut 5-6 feet of wire. I fastened it around the base of the stem and then started wrapping. There wasn’t much of a method to my madness, I just wrapped and added beads until I liked how each stem looked. When I ran out of wire I used needle nose pliers to fasten the end and pushed it behind a bead. I used a lot of seed beads on these but they don’t show well in the pictures.

E-photo 4

I wrapped up the glasses with some nice wine I bought on a trip to a winery in New York, and put a note in each of them. One note was a reminder that the glasses should be hand-washed to preserve the decorations. This is also a reminder for you should you go a-wrapping!

E-photo 5


I used bubble wrap to pack the glasses in a box, then wrapped the box and wine bottle in some cotton fabric and white ribbon.

I hadn’t done any wire wrapping before, and I really like how they turned out. What do you think?



Let’s talk about undercuts



Let’s talk about undercuts.

Mainly, how I acquired mine. In August of 2013 (so about 7 months ago), I went to a women’s retreat. We camped in the woods, sang songs, talked about feminism, and I ran a screen printing tent. It was a little hippy-dippy, but I liked it. A few of the women there had some awesome alternative haircuts. One had shaved off parts of her hair and left the rest long.  I immediately fell in love with this juxtaposition of the feminine and the edgy. About a day (and not much more consideration) later I found someone to shave off the hair on the left side of my head. The love affair has been ongoing since then.

As far as upkeep, I buzz it about once a month. Currently it has a bit of a fade, but usually I just buzz it all off at a level 2. When I cut it, I pull the long parts to the right side of my head in a tight bun to avoid accidentally cutting my long hair and expanding my undercut.

The downside is that I can’t do as much cool braiding stuff with my hair like I used to. But I would happily make the trade again.


And holy wow those ABM photoshop actions are amazing. I bought the mini collection for Photoshop- I used Petal and Jean to edit these photographs. I fiddled around with the settings a little after running the actions, and think it did just enough to boost the light and vibrancy of these pictures.


Making blog buttons

I wanted to share my new blog buttons with you! To add them to your site, copy the code in the text box below each image and paste it into a widget (if you use wordpress) or gadget (if you use blogger) on your side bar.

For those of you interested in making your own blog buttons, I’ve also included the resources I used to make them.

Here they are!

215×75 pixels

HPS octopus button




215×122 pixels

HPS bee button






The internet is chock full of quality tutorials for coding almost anything! I followed these tutorials to create the code for my buttons:

1. I used images from the Graphics Fairy . It is a website of vintage clip art image and DIY projects. It is a great resource for vintage stock images, and everything on it is free (under the terms of use). I used Adobe Photoshop to create the buttons using the images from the Graphics Fairy and the text tool. Make sure your images fit the width of your side bar (215×75 pixels is a good place to start). I made two different images so people could choose which size they want.

2. I followed this tutorial to make the code for the button (its from Teacher Blogging Basics). It walks you through creating a widget and customizing the code so the button can show up in your side bar. Clear instructions, very easy to follow. This is good if you only want to add a button. If you want to add code below the button so people can copy it, read on to step 3.

3. I used this tutorial to make the code for the text box below each button (seen in the side bar).  It is a “Grab a Button” generator. It will generate code for the button and text box below. Paste the code into a widget on your side bar to see it show up on your blog.

I learned SO much about coding and HTML code from this project. I knew next to nothing about it before, and I understand a great deal about it now. This is definitely a project that a beginner can handle. Good luck! Let me know if you want to swap buttons.



Furniture painting


I’d like to share a guest post with you today. My old friend and sometimes photographer Emily has gotten in to painting furniture lately. I’m always impressed at how she is able to transform old pieces of furniture into something eye catching. Her designs are so simple and classic. Today I’ve invited her to share one of her recent projects. Take it away, Em!

The first piece of furniture I painted was this past summer (2013). I painted an old bookshelf blue and white. I like painting furniture because it gives a room a new look and can revamp something you may have had for a long time. Giving a piece of furniture a makeover can help you see a whole room with new eyes. I haven’t quite mastered painting furniture, and I’m still figuring out best practices, but I have a lot of fun doing it.


I found this rocking chair in an old barn when I was helping to clean out a friend’s property. My godson is having his first birthday in May and I thought it would be a perfect gift.

My cousin Caroline and I did this project together. First we wiped the chair down to clean it off. There was a lot of chipped paint we had to get rid of. The chair was too small to use a power sander, so we sanded it off by hand using a rough grade of sand paper. The more you sand a surface, the smoother it will get- the grade of sand paper doesn’t matter that much. We wiped down the chair a second time to get rid of all the dust from sanding.


Next, we spray painted the chair with a navy blue matte spray paint (Rustoleum brand). We did two very thin coats so that it wouldn’t drip. We waited an hour between the two coats of paint. You can put a fan or a heater by the paint so that it will dry faster between coats. If your coat of paint is thin enough, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to dry between coats. After two coats of blue paint, we let the chair dry over night.


To paint the C on the seat, I printed out a C in a font I liked (Times New Roman or something similar). I used the C as a stencil and painted it with white paint.


Once the C dried, I sealed the whole chair with a glossy sealer to make the paint last. The chair is currently waiting for May in my house, anticipating its adorable new owner!


Another project I’m planning this summer is to strip a bookshelf down to its original wood and then stain it a dark color.

Thanks so much for sharing, Em! For more information on painting furniture, I would recommend this article and this article as good places to start.

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