Monday, February 27, 2012

DIY: Lace-Inset Sweater

When you live up north, being warm is important.  This is probably where my complete obsession with large comfortable sweaters comes in.  Lucky for me, baggy/soft/wearable sweaters have been very in style in the last couple of years, so I've been able to indulge my obsession without too much guilt or too many stares!

Then last year I came across a beautiful Free People sweater online and WANTED IT SO BAD... but for Free People prices, it was slightly out of my broke-college-student budget.  So I decided I would just make it myself.  Have to say, I'm not too disappointed in the results!  I wear my lace sweater all the time.  The lace adds a feminine touch to an otherwise slouchy grey knit, and if you make sure your material isn't too heavy, this sweater is perfect for the transitions between spring, summer, and fall.

This is one of those projects that I completed before creating my blog, so sadly there are no pictures of the process.  I'll describe it as well as I can, but if you have any questions or a section isn't totally clear, please leave me a comment.

Now, I did this project totally by hand because I didn't have access to my sewing machine at the time, but you can use a machine to save lots of time if you have the know-how.

Large sweater (thrift this!)
1-2 yds lace, depending on how big an area you want to cover
needle and thread

1. Start out with an XL knit sweater.  I chose a lighter weight grey men't knit with a lot of stretch.  It can have whatever kind of neckline you want, but I would recommend avoiding zippers or buttons unless you have some sewing experience.

2. Lay your sweater on a flat surface, inside out, with the front facing up.  Decide the shape you want the lace insert to be.  I chose a sweetheart neckline but you could do any shape you wanted.  When you have it set, draw it on the sweater.  Then, put the sweater on... marker lines on the inside of the sweater but facing out so you can see them in the mirror, and make any adjustment.  Do the same for the back.

3. Cut the shape you have drawn out of the sweater.  Cut around the neckline so that you can sew the neck back onto the lace.  Cut an inch or two above your lines at the bottom.  You can trim more later, but if you cut too much, you can't put it back.

4. Cut the single large shape you have taken from the knit sweater so that you have 2 flat shapes: one for the front, and one for the back.

5. Trace these shapes onto your lace.  Cut them out with 2 inches margins on each side so you have plenty of room for error.

6. Sew the 2 lace pieces together at the sides, leaving the top and bottom open, with the right sides together.  You will end up with one big piece that should look exactly like the one large piece that you previously took out of the sweater.

7. With the lace inside the sweater, line up the edges and pin them all together so that the lace replaces the knit material that you removed.  then sew along the edges that you drew for the shape.  When you are done sewing all the way around the top and bottom edges, you can trim back the extra knit material that you left as margins.

8. After this step, you can stop or continue to tailor your sweater.
I took in the sleeves up to the elbow to give the sweater bat wings.
I also hemmed the sweater up so that it wasn't as long... as a men's extra large it covered my whole butt until I took it up to hit the top of my jeans.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

DIY: Floral dress

This floral dress is perfect for romping around in warmer weather and is a total transformation from the long prairie skirt that it started out as.  This IS a DIY but requires some basic sewing skills (a sewing machine was super helpful for speeding up the process).  I also don't have any images of the transformation, so keep your eyes here in the next few weeks and I'm sure to make another one and post the images!

1. Start out with a long mid- or high-waisted skirt that fits you well.  The longer the skirt when you begin, the more fabric you'll have to work with later.
2. Turn the skirt inside out and mark the length you want it
3. Cut an inch below your line, and hem the skirt up to your desired length.  You should be left with a whole bunch of leftover fabric, hold onto it... it will become the top!
4. Now I didn't want to deal with adding stretch or a zipper at the top of the dress, so mine drops all the way down to the top of the skirt's zipper in the back.  It makes it easier to get on and off... but requires me to have the halter top because I could't get it to stay up as a strapless.
5. you want to measure all the way around your waist, this distance is the length of the bottom of the top piece.  (this measurement is the length you want AFTER you finish all the edges, so cut it big!)
6. Then you want to measure the distance from the top of the skirt to where you want the top of the dress to hit.  Finally, you want to measure the distance across the front of your chest, this is how wide the top part of the dress will be before it drops down to the skirt at the back.
7. Mark these three measurements on your fabric with the waist measure at the bottom, the height measurement going up from the middle, and the chest width market at the top of the height measure.  You will have 2 more lines that go from the ends of the chest measure to the ends of the waist measure.  You will end up with a shape that looks like a long Trapezoid.
8. Cut out your trapezoid with 1 inch margins outside the lines.  Sew the top edges down like you would a hem.  Sew the bottom to the skirt top, right sides together.
9.  I added buttons to the front of mine, and rushed the front to make a kind of "sweetheart" top.  You can sew on any kind of ribbon or chord to make a halter if yours falls down in front like mine did.

Illustrations or a second demo will soon follow!!!  Send me pics if you make one :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

DIY: high-waisted shorts

These High-Waisted Brown Shorts are pretty simple to make.  I took a trip to my local Salvation Army (favorite place for a thrift junky) and scored a pair of high-waisted flood pants.  With the legs still attached, the pants were a really awkward length and a strange width... tight at the ankle but kind of balloony along the thigh.

If you plan to make shorts, you can ignore how the pants look.  Pick a pair based on where they hit you - I prefer mine right above the navel - how you like the color, if the material is comfortable/attractive, and how tight they are through the butt and upper thigh.  If they hug as pants they will hug as shorts too.  I tend to be very active so I looked for a looser fitting pair.  They fit much nicer as shorts and the flair at the bottom makes them comfortable for sitting and moving around.

Again, this is one of those projects I finished before starting this blog, so I'll have to explain the process in steps without pictures.  Let me know if you don't understand some part!

1. Put on the pants inside out and decide how long you want the shorts to be.  I wanted mine pretty short, but not absurdly so.  My rule of measurement was to make a fist, and to mark on the shorts where my knuckles hit my thigh.  Mark this measurement with chalk, a pencil, or a pen that won't bleed through to the other side of the fabric.

2. Take the pants off, and continue your mark with a line that goes around both legs (still on the inside of the fabric) so that it is even on both sides.  Shorts tend to fit best if you make the lines at a slight V with the lowest point on the inner thighs, extending up towards the highest point at the place where you knuckles hit the sides of the shorts.

3. Because you will hem these, you DO NOT want to cut along the line you've made.  Measure and mark another line 1 inch below the first one.  You will cut along this second lower line, and your shorts will be slightly longer at this point than they will be when you are finished hemming.

4. In order not to make your shorts too short, you will want to put them on again at this stage to see how long they are and to decide how short to hem them.  They should still be inside out.  Roll the hem upwards and pin it all the way around both legs so that they are the length you want.

5. Carefully take the shorts off and measure to make sure both legs are even.  Adjust any pins that aren't the same length.

6. I did this on a sewing machine, but you can also sew these by hand it just takes a bit longer.  My material was stretchy so I chose a zigzag stitch which allows some pull to the fabric.  I then sewed around the hem, half an inch from the bottom all the way around.  The rolled hem should be on the inside, so from the outside (when you put the shorts on to go out) you will only see the stitches, not the rolled fabric.  Pick a color thread that compliments because you will see it!  I went with black, but a brighter color could be fun if you're a little more color adventurous in your wardrobe.

7. If you are using a heavy fabric like leather, vinyl, canvas, felt, or denim, then this last step can be done with glue.  Just use a washable, heavy duty fabric glue in a thin strip on the inside of the fabric fold.  Press the hem into place until the glue sets.  Done.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Welcome to Exquisite Searching, my first personal blog.  As a student and an artist, life can feel overwhelming sometimes and everyone needs an escape.  Here in this forum I can focus on all of the beautiful, little, everyday things that make life worthwhile and hopefully I can share a little bit of my enthusiasm for my long-term habit of making.

 I make things constantly.  No Joke.  I love it.  And I secretly hope that you love it too.  I am inspired by the quirky, the offbeat, the beautiful, the simple solutions, the handmade, and the underestimated.  I find so much satisfaction in the process of creation and expression.

This is not to mention that as a college student, I sometimes find that funds and supplies are limited, so being able to craft, thrift, discover, and conjure my way through life is not only rewarding but also fun... kind of like a secret game that only I know that I'm playing.