Monday, October 31, 2016

Orchids on your Budget Gift Series #7....packaging for a luxury feel...

After I shared a picture of my rescued, laundered, embroidered and packaged silk camisole on the weekend, I had several requests wanting to know how I'd packaged it so neatly. In fact above tells the story of how I turned a $2 thrifted camisole, into a boutique style gift. Laundering, embellishing and packaging, makes all the difference!
Packaging is often as important as the gift. Especially if you're gifting home made. You want your home made gift, that you've no doubt spent many hours of time and energy on, to look the part, so care with packaging really helps.
It helps to take note of how department store and boutique gift store items are packaged to give you some clues.
Back when I was younger, mens shirts used to come boxed with a clear lid, and they'd have all kinds of shaped pieces of cardboard in them to make them present well. In the body of the shirt, you'd find a rectangle of cardboard, which gave the shirt it's shape for the box. So I used that idea for my silk camisole. Note that you could actually turn that rectangle into your greeting card, so it's not wasted, if you wish. I usually just ask the recipient to return the cardboard to me so it's re-used for another package. Nobody has refused me yet!

So you lay your item flat, and face down, as seen above.

Cut a rectangle from thick project cardboard, or use a recycled box, and cover it with tissue paper if you wish. It needs to be something quite rigid. Place the rectangle centrally on the item of clothing. Remember this is the back of your item.

Fold the bottom of your item up from the lower edge, and down from the top edge, using your cardboard as a guide, so that you have a neat and flat display, at the front. If you have embroidery, screen printing, or other embellishments you wish to feature, make sure they are centrally and prominently located in the front, top half of the cardboard rectangle. Not in the centre, because your ribbon is going there.

Now fold the bottoms into an L shape, keeping it neat, a bit like the end of a gift wrapped box. You know when you do those little envelope folds? Like that. See above.
Then fold the outside edges over, enclosing the envelope folds.

See here above, one side folded over, the other side with envelope folds like you're wrapping a boxed gift, ready to be folded over.

So you end up with this neat rectangular package, above.

And from the front, it will now look like this. Embroidery displayed at the top, in the centre, with a nice open space for your gift bow.

Turn it back over so the reverse side is facing up, cut a length of double satin ribbon, slide it underneath, and wrap it around, flipping your item over so it is now face up. The double band of ribbon will hold your items folds in place.

Write your tag, if you're using one. I use Manilla luggage tags as a generic way of describing what I've done. I don't pretend my items are new. I'm perfectly open about them being used or vintage, and my wording says, "A prize, lovingly restored to as-new, and embellished by my hands, for you to enjoy". Everyone seems perfectly comfortable with this, and my home made wool wash, makes them smell so gorgeous, who could complain? In fact, my wool wash, also suitable for silk and any other luxury fabrics, is the perfect companion gift for these pretties.
From there, you can wrap your gift in clear cellophane, tissue paper, or other wrapping as desired, or slide them into a gift bag. It's up to you.
I guarantee this will make someone smile. We all love something beautiful and special, and I think this packaging certainly helps create that. Have fun!
Now I want to share the work of some very special friends....
Fall Front Stoop
Nicki at Sweet Parrish Place is a wonderful supporter of Five Star Frou-Frou, and I want to thank her for her continuing support. This gorgeous Fall entry is Nicky's work of course, and she has such an eye for detail, that I thought you might enjoy this post as much as I did.
Fabiolas makeover of a $2.50 Church sale desk, has to be seen to be believed. Fabi has a gorgeous blog, full of inspiration and you can find her here, at Fabi-Fabu. Thanks for sharing this one Fabi. I love it!
And while we're on the subject of furniture for under $10, Michelle at Our Crafty Mom, scored this bar cart for $5, and refurbished in this gorgeous duck egg blue. What a transformation!
I want Debbie from Debbie-Dabble to come and organise my craft room. Hers looks like this and I just love it! From the pink and pretty skirt on the chair to the permanent Christmas Tree! I have a permanent Christmas Tree in my craft room too, doesn't look like this! Absolutely stunning, Debbie. I mean it. Can you visit me here in Australia and organise my craft room?
Large DIY cement bowl tinted with latex paint.
Finally, I really love this rustic, artisanal cement bowl made by Jen at DIY Furniture. I can't wait to use her tutorial to make some as gifts. I envisage these as vessels for home crafted candles!
Thankyou again, from the bottom of my heart, to all of you who continue to support my neverending linkup, Five Star Frou-Frou. I look forward to showcasing some more of your beautiful work.
love, Mimi

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Budgeting & Insourcing....How we saved in October...

How was October for you? Did you stay on track with your budget? Or did matters beyond your control mean a budget blowout?
Sticking to a budget, and having an Emergency Fund are fundamental in living well, and having reduced stress levels. Ultimately it's the stress that often causes us to overspend, with a fatalistic attitude of 'well things are terrible anyway, I may as well buy something to cheer myself up'. Been there, done that? Me too.
The thing is, that once you embrace the idea of Insourcing, and challenge yourself to NOT spend as often as possible in the space of a day, a week, a month, you'll become kind of addicted to it.
There are few things these days, that I do not at least attempt to Insource first. I'm pretty brave. I wasn't always. Just a few short years ago, my internal doubt would have me saying things like 'I couldn't possibly make that/do that/recreate that'. And this is despite growing up in a family where Mum ALWAYS said 'We can make that (dress/cake/costume/meal/whatever) Darling'. So if you're not accustomed to DIY-ing, the prospect can be daunting to start with.
Thanks to blogging and the internet, we all know that many ordinary folk like ourselves, make/bake/create these days, and share their successes and failures with us all. There's little that I can't sit down at my desktop and Google nowadays, knowing that someone, somewhere, will have sat just as I am, wondering how to create the very thing I'm attempting.
One thing that this has taught me, is that everything can be broken down into manageable steps. If someone can video or photograph themselves while they're creating, then surely I can manage doing that too.
Here's my tally for October, all managed by breaking down the elements I wanted to recreate, and being a bit brave...
I recreated a Dolce & Gabbana inspired blouse, spending just $10. The 'real' version was $1600. Okay. I never would have bought it, but I take enormous satisfaction in mentally adding that to my tally of savings for the month.

I added a deep fringe to a skirt I already had in my wardrobe. Total cost $20. Savings on the skirt I'd admired in the department store? $350.

I made my own multi-purpose household cleaner. Recipes for this are all over the internet these days. I tint mine a pretty shade of pink, with gel food colour. Just because I can and it's fun. This one cleaner saves me about $30 a month on other sprays and foams with which to clean my home.

I made an Anne Boleyn dance costume for my daughters dance assignment at school. I got an! I also saved $350 on a purchased Anne Boleyn costume.

My daughter and I cut each others hair. We used sharp scissors and the CreaClip to guide us to more stylish tresses. Savings of $160 recorded there.

We also manicured and pedicured our way to savings with our Jamberry nail wraps. $11 for one sheet of wraps, which gives us two manicures and two pedicures, that last up to two weeks. Now that's a bargain! This one is called Galaxy, I think. It's meant to look like the night sky. I like it. We saved $260 on salon mani-pedis, and spent just $22.
I baked a pretty cake for my Granddaughters third birthday. This cake was rainbow layered on the inside and saved $400 on a similar one from a cake decorator. Apparently it disappeared so quickly on the day, that my daughter-in-law didn't even have time to photograph the inner layers for me!

Thanks to Annabel at The Bluebirds are Nesting, and her tips on pretty Grub Roses (I call them Bullion Roses), I perfected my technique, using my newly acquired Straw Needles that have a shaft the same size all the way along, unlike normal needles that are wider at the base than at the top, making for messy Grub Roses! I used that skill to embroider on inexpensive chain store dresses for the aforementioned granddaughter, elevating them to something more bespoke, saving at least $100 on bought hand embroidered clothing for children...

I also used trim left over from my scarf making, to trim a cute tshirt for her, saving $15 on a similar one...

...and here's the scarf. I made this from a remnant for just $10. I made 5 more as gifts. These scarves sell for $60, so I'll call that a saving of $300.
We enjoyed watching a spectacular sunset with home made Ginger Beer in hand, which a friend had given me in exchange for my sewing skills. Savings of around $10, but even more priceless was the show that Nature provided...

I rescued several pretties at my local thrift store, turning them from ugly to precious, just with gentle laundering and ironing...

I'm particularly proud of the silk camisole below, which cost me just $2, and which once laundered, pressed and embroidered with my new skill of Grub Roses....

...ended up looking like this...

These upcycled silk lingerie items fetch good money on Etsy. I'll call that a saving of $150 on the three items, and that's conservative.

Here's the sewing project I swapped for the Ginger Beer. A pair of lycra shorts for a costume. I cut and stitched these in just 30 minutes. I used YouTube here, as my tutorial. So simple that I'm now inspired to make more sweet lingerie! A saving for my friend of $45 on the same pair of shorts from a Dancewear shop.

And finally vases of Gypsophila all over the house courtesy of my lovely husband. Gypsophila (Babys Breath) is so inexpensive, and looks so delicate massed in simple glass vases. Saving of $65 on bouquets of roses!
That's a grand total generated this month of $3,385!
And I got to keep my hard earned money in the bank too!
What do you think? Is insourcing worth a try?
Stay tuned for Five Star Frou-Frou features later today! I have five bloggers to feature and you won'tt believe what they've been up to!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Orchids on your Budget Gift Series #6...use thrifting and renewing to fill your gift cupboard...

Upcycling and embellishing vintage clothing and linen is big business on the hand crafting sites like Etsy and MadeIt. It amazes me then, that some people will buy from these sites, yet turn their nose up at thrift shops and garage sales. Where do they think the Etsy dealers find their wares to upcycle?
If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you'll know that I love a good thrift store, and making a silk purse out of a sows ear (as the old saying goes) is a challenge that never ceases to put a smile on my face.
Over the last couple of weeks, maybe you've followed along as I've been embellishing thrifted clothing to give it a more designer look and feel. You can see those posts here, here, here and here. I've also been encouraging you to visit your local haberdashery, and familiarise yourself with the look and feel of some of the more luxurious fabrics. Once you know the difference between polyester and silk, or knit and ponti, or polyester chiffon over a beautiful silk chiffon or double georgette, you'll acquire a whole new appreciation of thrift stores, and their offerings. Because at thrift stores, you can find gorgeous items made from all of those luxury fabrics, and more.
Over time, you'll be able to spot a delustred or duchess satin over a polyester satin from ten paces. You'll easily discern a cheap chain store robe, from a 100% silk one just from the feel of it under your fingertips. Your eye will rapidly dismiss anything that looks cheap and throwaway, and will hone in on items made from quality fabrics that will stand the test of time.
Here are a few examples, from this weeks thrift store shopping and upcycling alone....
This camisole looked very sorry for itself when I dug it from the bottom of a wire basket, where it was trapped amongst a plethora of DD cup bras and dubious black and red lingerie. It's silk, and I paid just $2 for it. It looks a bit sad, doesn't it. You probably wouldn't look twice at it. But I felt it, knew it was silk, and pictured immediately what I could do with it.
A gentle sustained swish in a sink full of my home made wool and silk wash helped, (and this is the perfect companion gift for your upcycled pretties). Then I caressed it with an iron set to just barely medium heat, and embroidered it with some Bullion Roses and French knots. Suddenly a thing of beauty.
This sad looking pistachio green satin pyjama set, didn't look much, when dragged from the depths of the same wire basket...

...but again, a gentle hand wash, and a press with a warm iron, and it looks lavish and brand new again. In fact better than new in some respects, as it's been washed of it's starchy new-ness. This will be added to my daughters stash of more grown-up pyjama wear. She's already worn it twice and pronounced it a favourite.

This red Chinoiserie inspired robe, didn't look much either, hung amongst a dozen or so cheap polyester robes. But one drape against the back of my hand, and I knew it was the real thing. This one was just $7, and once washed, dried in the sun, and ironed... rewarded me with the lustre and glow that only silk provides.

See here below, a polyester night dress, and note the difference between it and the silk, above. It's noticeable, isn't it. The polyester looks almost plastic-ey by comparison.
All the same, I grabbed this one for $2, as well as this silk scarf below for just $1, and given it's toning colours, I have a plan to use both to create something sweet and new to gift to a womens shelter.
Of course silks and satins aren't the only prizes. I found this quality robe, in the sort of fine knit towelling that lasts and lasts, for just $4. I knew straight away that some delicate pink Bullion Roses and ivy stems would elevate it to special as well. I haven't decided on a new home for this one yet. I may keep it for myself!

Don't be shy about gifting things that you've elevated to special.
I include a manilla tag tied with satin ribbon to my gifts. It says...
"A prize, lovingly restored to as-new condition, and embellished with my hands, for you to enjoy"
This seems to be an honest representation, that 99.9% of recipients accept joyously.
I hope it works for you too.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

50 & Fab...Clothing embellishment #3...Attention to detail = D&G inspired blouse...

I love the challenge of creating a designer look from things I already have in my wardrobe. The only thing I love more, is finding a great piece at my local upmarket thrift store, that will do half the work for me!
The polka dot blouse pictured above is from Dolce & Gabbanas most recent collection, and I love the fun element in it's design. Dolce & Gabbana never take themselves too seriously, and neither do I, so I guess that's why I'm drawn to their cute and quirky take on the fashion world. This blouse sells for over $1500, and sure, I could buy one. And not eat for a month. In fact, if I lived alone, I might do just that. I could do with a lighter diet for a month or two. Alas I have a husband and a teen child who have a curious attachment to food. What's a girl to do???
Well, as luck would have it, the day after I spotted ( pun!) this blouse on my Net-a-Porter email, this little one jumped into my arms at my local Op Shop. In my size and all, and at just $9.50, a bit of a bargain compared to the one I'd been eyeing off from D&G! Sure, the colourway is reversed, but as I've said before, I'm seeking the elements and the look, not the identical item. My version even has a cute peek-a-boo keyhole feature at the front, which I thought was a lovely way to make mine a little more bespoke.
I had this slender white crafting ribbon on hand (one of the quirks of being a Dance Mum), so I utilised that to form the lettering. I decided on simply using 'Bella', as I didn't want to be too pedantic about my inspiration. I pinned the ribbon into place, mimicking the flowing script in the D&G blouse, and rearranging it until I was happy.
Now if you're re-fashioning along with me, can I suggest that you loosely hand stitched your lettering into place. Machine stitching all these loops and curves with pins in them, will be a nightmare!

Here's the lettering, hand stitched quickly into place, ready to be machine stitched.

Now you could just stitch this with matching thread, but I had this hologram thread on hand from some costume embellishing earlier this year, so I couldn't resist threading my machine with it, to see how it would look.

In the end, the result was okay, but a little underwhelming for someone who loves their bling! I resolved to look more closely at the Dolce & Gabbana blouse to see what made their lettering pop.
Meanwhile, I worked on fashioning my poppy. Now the lavish red poppy on the D&G blouse, actually seems to be made from ribbon of some sort. As I'm into using what I have on hand, I grabbed this piece of red bridal tulle, and folded and scrunched it into a rough flower shape. You could do this too. Any fabric would work. I like the tulle as it gives my flower a very full and lush appearance. Satin ribbon, cord, lace, stiffened fabric of any kind and lycra, would all make fabulous flowers for your blouse.

I had a tiny scrap of black tulle laying around, so I stitched that roughly to a centre point on my tulle, before folding the rest of the tulle scrap underneath, and securing it with a few random stitches to hold the folds in place.

Looking more closely at my inspiration photo, I noticed that the flower had some slivers of shiny green in the centre, so I grabbed a roll of green double satin craft ribbon, and fashioned a little loop from that to enhance my flora.

Here it is all done. I tidied it further, folding the messy edges under and firmly hand stitching them.
You could make your flora from ribbon or yarn, starting off like a pompom and flattening it too. You're only limited by your imagination.

Hold your finished flower up against your blouse, to decide where you'd like to position it. Again, I looked at the original blouse, and held up my flower in a few different spots...
In the end, as much as the D&G one has the flower and the lettering on opposite sides, like this...
I decided I preferred the look of the lettering and flower, both on the same side. In case I changed my mind, and to maximise use of my gorgeous poppy, I fixed a brooch pin to the back of it, allowing me to move it around at will, and use it on other outfits, too.

 I was pretty content with this outcome and wore it like this twice. But to my eye, my lettering just wasn't popping like I wanted it too. If I had thought to fashion the lettering in black, it may have worked, but I was torn between the subtlety of the white lettering and silver thread, and wanting it to be more prominent.
When you're attempting these kinds of projects, it's often helpful to enlarge your images for inspiration to get a better idea of how they're mastered. I did this, and found that the D&G lettering is actually a lavish trim fashioned from either silver or white bugle beads in several rows.
Well. Bugle beads aren't difficult now, are they. Fiddly, yes. Difficult, no. $7 bought me a packet of suitable beads, and I'm in the middle of embellishing my lettering with them right now...
I'll be finished tomorrow and hopefully I'll be able to share a photograph of me wearing it!
I'm not suggesting for a moment that my blouse is the same as the designer one by which it was inspired. I'm just showing you that for very little cost or effort, you can take the elements of a designer piece, and make them your own.
It's fun too. I love simply trying to break down what makes these designer pieces so desirable. Yes, it's the prestige. But sometimes, it's just attention to detail. With attention to detail, you too, can have a unique and fabulous wardrobe.
Go on. What can you have fun embellishing?