HOW TO: Adjust a Basic Hem

I know I haven’t written in a while.  Life’s been busy, and unfortunately a lot of the projects I would normally write about have fallen by the wayside.  I’m slowly picking them up again, and in honor of NaNoWriMo, I thought that I would try to start posting on a more regular basis.  We’ll start with a post I’ve been sitting on for quite some time.

So, let’s say you’re short, like me, so every pair of pants is too long. Or you found the perfect skirt, but it’s below the knee instead of above like you like. Instead of leaving that perfect item of clothing on the rack, go ahead and buy it, and learn how to do a basic hem. This is one of the things that a lot of people don’t know how to do, but it is fairly easy. If you’re nervous, you can always take the clothing to a tailor.

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This pair of trousers is one that I bought on a whim online. They fit everywhere just fine, but they are too long. And where else would I find a pair of eggplant colored trousers? So, I needed to get them hemmed. The first step is to figure out how much you need to take the hem up. This will mainly depend on what shoes you want to wear with the pants. It’s a good idea to have a friend help, as trying to mark and keep it even while wearing the item can be rather difficult. These pants were already pinned before I started writing this post thanks to help from my friend, Erin. Just seeing how much I had to fold the hem back should give you an idea of how long these were on me.

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In this tutorial, I’m doing what I’m calling a folded hem, because my trousers were made out of a woven material, which is prone to fraying once it’s been cut. That might not be the term you see in sewing books, but once you see the method, I’m sure you’ll understand why I call it that. If you only need to take the pants up a little, you might want to try preserving the original hem as much as you can. Here’s a tutorial on that technique for jeans. For my example pair, they were much too long, so I needed to actually cut them. Be very careful, as you can’t undo the cutting once it has happened.

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I marked my pair where I wanted the fold to happen, and where I want the actual hem to be. This told me where my cutting line was. I used a hem gauge to try to keep it consistent between the two legs, but a regular thin plastic ruler should work fine. I also used a rotary cutter to cut my fabric. I prefer these because they are quick, they do straight lines easier, and they cut through multiple layers of fabric at the same time. Be careful though, they’re not pizza cutters, and they are very sharp. You’ll also need a protective mat so you don’t cut your surface.

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After cutting, I did a zigzag stitch on the edge. We’re going to do everything we can to keep this cut edge from fraying, hence the folded hem. A zigzag stitch is a good substitute for using a serger, which is what professional seamstresses and commercial companies use to finish hems. Think the hem on your t-shirt.

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Then I folded and ironed, and folded and ironed. Ironing helps keep all the edges crisp and keeps things lined up for when you’re planning to sew. Notice how my zigzag edge is now tucked completely inside the folds of the hem? That will also help to minimize fraying.

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The last step is to hand-sew the top of the ironed fold to the actual pant leg so the folds don’t come undone. I’m hand sewing because the original hem on these trousers was an invisible hem, so I don’t want any obvious stitching. If it’s blue jeans, or you don’t mind having an obvious line for the hem stitch, you can use a sewing machine, but most of my trousers have this invisible hem. Just use a needle, pick up the fold with the thread, and pick up the pant leg. You can almost spot my hem here because I have a tendency to pull my thread too tight.

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And the results. They look much better, and I can wear them with flats or heels. So have no fear. Hemming is one of the simplest alterations you can make to a garment, and if you want to take it to a tailor, it tends to be one of the cheapest.

Dress Your Best 2011

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So, Academichic is hosting their Dress Your Best Week.  I’m a little late to the party, as it technically started on June 20, and will end on July 1.  But that’s ok.  Dress Your Best was what originally inspired me to try my hand at blogging, not just about fashion, but about everything!

In any case, since it’s summer and I don’t dress up a lot during summer, I’m just going to feature one outfit.  I’ll be featuring what I think is my number 1 best feature right now: my hourglass figure.  (It’s a big hourglass, but it’s there.)

Now, normally,  I don’t accentuate this much, because I feel too chunky.  But, I have a large collection of corsets that help out.  It being summer, however, I am not going to wear one of those.  Instead, I’m just wearing a simple black dress.  This dress has been languishing in the back of my closet, perhaps because I don’t like the way the thin straps show off my flabby arms, or the detail that emphasizes my hips.  Not sure.  But I found it and I said “Aha!  Nothing like a little black dress to show off your figure.

I wore this to go to a circus, and so I tried to dress it down by wearing bright wedges, and matching bracelets and feather earrings.  The circus was fun too.  My first experience at one that was more in the classic circus style.

So there you have it.  Be sure to check out all the other great participating blogs, and of course, the lovely ladies of Academichic themselves.

Dress Your Best Week

Throwback to the Early Blog

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So, I promised a post that would be a throwback to what this blog started with.  It took me a while to find something.  You see, now that it’s summer and I don’t have as many obligations on campus, I spend most of my time lazing around my air-conditioned apartment in my comfiest clothes.  Not something I’m willing to share with you guys.

Anyway, this photo is actually from back in May, about a week after classes ended.  I was still recovering from crazy semester.  But that night, Andrew and I were going to attend a concert in Dallas.  I had bought the tickets all the way back in February, made sure my schedule would be open, and had been bouncing up and down all week.  Since it was a concert for an international music artist (Yanni, if you must know) I felt like I should dress up.  But the end of semester had been rough.  What to wear that looked nice and yet I could stand a 3 hour car drive in?

This dress is now called my GoTo Dress.  It makes an outfit on it’s own, and while the cut is not as flattering as it could have been, it’s stretchy and comfy and still looks nice.  The glint at my neck is a beautiful necklace Andrew got me when he was in Prague.  I’ll take a closeup picture sometime.  Also, my hair looks a bit funny because I’ve made a resolution to not straighten my hair all summer, but I was still working out the best way to do that.

Anyway, a short post to get back into the blogging game.  I’ll have a couple more recipe posts, a summary of how the May/June workout goal went, and what I have planned for July!

Happy 1-Year Anniversary!

So, due to the craziness that was my general exams, I missed the 1-year anniversary of the blog.  That’s sort of sad, but I’ve made surprising progress over the last year, regardless.  To celebrate, I’ve changed the appearance of the blog.  Let’s take a walk down memory lane and go back to a couple of old posts, just to remember how it all started.

  1. The First Real Post – The first non-intro blog post was about how I was attempting to give certain fashion trends a fair shake.  Since then, I’ve worn several skirts, dresses, my shoe collection has ballooned.  I got the courage to empty my closet of almost everything that doesn’t fit.  Expect another fashion post or two, as a tribute back to the beginning.
  2. Best Recipe Success – There were several attempts at slow-cooker success over the past year, but by far, the tastiest is the slow-cooker tortilla soup.  I’m going to dig out this recipe and make it again, as the craving for home-cooked food comes back.  It’s also a reminder to attempt to reproduce the green sauce.  A project for this summer, perhaps?
  3. Productivity! – In the fall, I implemented Getting Things Done for College Students.  I never really did a follow-up post, but fall semester was almost entirely stress-free (except for big exams), and this semester was very stressful, but definitely would have been more so if I didn’t have this system.  This will be helping me stay on top of things this summer too.
  4. There were How-Tos, and other recipes too.  We also discovered I don’t like turmeric.
That’s just things that have happened in the crazy first year of this blog.  Prepare for another year of crazy productivity, more recipes, more how-tos, and more stuff I haven’t thought of yet.

First Day of Classes

5368242501_8bc26f587e_oSo today was the first day of classes.  This is the outfit I decided to wear.  I actually put together the idea of this last semester, but didn’t get a chance to take pictures.  It strikes me as very neo-Victorian, and I wish I had more clothes that could do that.  I always tend to go over the top professional for the first day of classes.  I tried to tone it down a little with jeans, but I’ve been informed that those hardly add any casual factor to it.  I don’t know why they wadded up funny, normally they’re very straight and trouser like.  I also apologize for the poor lighting.  This was taken during the whirlwind that was my rush home for lunch.

The reason that I tend to go very professional on the first day of classes is that I’m pretty young, as far as instructors go.  It also doesn’t help that I’m short, and even with the extra weight, I don’t exactly scream “authority figure”.  I want my students to think that I am professional, and that I am in control of the classroom.  Even if the latter is mostly an illusion.  Also, the first day of classes is the first impression the students will get of me.  You can’t do those twice.  So better to look like an uber-professional, totally over-dressed grad student, then a lazy one who doesn’t care.

The amazing thing to me about this outfit is that the white shirt is actually rather hideous on me.  I don’t like white as a color normally, and the cut is very strange.  But under the red jacket, nobody can see it.  I might see if the same thing would work with a cardigan too.  The jacket is actually something I found on accident from someone online.  It had added seams to the back to take it in.  It was an easy thing to let them out, and voila, perfectly fitted jacket for me.

This brings me to the issue of what I call “power clothes”.  Everybody has them.  That perfect set of heels that make you feel sexy no matter what, the idea of the lucky shirt, and more.  Normally, my two strongest power clothes are my corsets and my heels (very rarely worn together.)  This velvety jacket is a close third.  The fit is nice, and the fabric is fun.  Not too stodgy and not too trendy.

What are the clothes you like to wear on the first day of classes?  What kind of message do you think they send?  Do you have “power clothes” and if so, what are they?

Dress Your Best: Hips are Love

4614484770_1983ea6ea0_oOutfit:

  • Brown heels: ???
  • Brown trousers: maurices
  • Draped Top: maurices
  • Silver Belt: ???

Notes:

Ok, I know it’s a little late, but here’s my final Dress Your Best post.  Today, I decided to play up my hips.  As I said in my first Dress Your Best post, I actually like my hips.  With my weight issues, I’m more sensitive about my waist.  To me, my hips are a symbol of femininity, associated with general sexiness and somewhat with childbirth.  And I’m not ashamed to say that I have child-bearing hips.  However, my hips tend to get covered up in the attempts I make to hide my waist, so for Dress Your Best, I really wanted to let them have the spotlight for a little while.

There was a time that I collected belts that are meant to be worn on the hips, but again, like many things, they got shoved to the back of the closet when I gained weight.  Today I pulled one of them back out.  I wanted the belt to be the highlight of the outfit, so I kept the rest simple.  Surprisingly (well, to me), I got numerous compliments on the belt and how nice I looked.  This outfit is definitely a keeper, and it’s inspired me to go in search of my other hip belts.

4614485708_4675670e00_oAlso, wanted to share the awesome trench-coat I got from my big shopping day a few weeks again.  I’ve been wanting a more rainy-day friendly coat, and I was lucky enough to find this one on sale.

Anyway, that’s the end of Dress Your Best week for me.  And I won’t be teaching until a few weeks from now, so this will probably be the last fashion post until then.  I’ll be picking up a lot of summer projects, so stay tuned for updates on those.

Dress Your Best: Ankles/Feet

Outfit:

  • Shoes: No Doubt via Ebay
  • Skirt: Self made (Pattern McCall’s M5430)
  • Blue top: ???
  • Wooden Heart Necklace: ???
  • Pearl Ribbon Necklace: Freejewelry.com

Notes:

Ok, I have what I call “bendy ankles of doom.”  I say this because I’ll be walking along, minding my own business, and all of sudden one of them bends to the side and I lose my balance.  I never fall over, and I’m never hurt, but it sure is embarrassing.  Surprisingly, this doesn’t scare me away from high heels, even though the bendy ankle thing is more likely to happen.

I have tiny feet, and this makes shoe shopping awesome.  I always seem to find cute shoes in my size.  These heels are actually from the UK, and would you believe it, they’re 4 inches high.  Talk about a height boost.   My feet get a little stiff, but I have no problems in heels that high, because I have naturally high arches.

Thank goodness I was focusing on the heels so much, because after seeing this photo, I’m not sure I like the rest of this outfit.  In preparation for Dress Your Best Week, I started digging through my closet for things I may have forgotten to the depths of comfy clothes and familiar outfits.  Hence the skirt and top.  The skirt I sewed myself, to wear with some corsets for a steampunk festival.  It seemed rather plain without the corsets, and so it got relegated to the back of my closet.  I had plained to take some chocolate colored paint and paint a gear design on it; it was one of those many projects that got set aside.  Now, I’m not so sure it needs it.  I still think it would look cool though.  The shirt was a mistake, I think.  I thought something brightly colored would contrast the pile of neutrals I was wearing, but it really isn’t cut well, and I felt uncomfortable all day.

The great thing about fashion is you try different things and see what works and what doesn’t.  This top will go to the back of the closet for a while, I expect.

Dress Your Best: Curly Hair

4603076584_cd4736602b_oOutfit:

  • Flats: ???
  • Gray Trousers: Maurices
  • Blue Cami: Maurices
  • Black Cardigan: Maurices
  • Ribbon: ???

Notes:

So, as part of Dress Your Best week, I’ve started off with showing off my hair.  My hair is curly, as you can see.  Similar to many other people with curly hair, I used to hate my hair.  I didn’t know what to do with it.  Nobody else in my family had curly hair, no one knew where it came from.  Junior high and high school was difficult.  When I finally got to college, I started learning how to properly care for my hair.  I learned to wash it properly, style it properly, and it repaid me by showing it what it can do.

What My Hair Can Do:

  • Hold heat styles with no hairspray (Straightening, Curling Irons)
  • Grow insanely fast.
  • Hold semi-permanent color for 6 months instead of 6 weeks.
  • Withstand Great Plains winds and still stay spunky.

Now, some would say that I’ve broken a few cardinal rules about curly hair: mainly, that my hair is fairly short.  I had long hair for a long time, cropped it super short in high school, and wore it long again in undergrad.  I like this medium length here because it looks good straight or curly, it’s a nice length to manage, and it’s spunky.  And I’m all about the spunk.

To show off my curls for Dress Your Best week, I just decided to dress them up with a shiny blue ribbon.  Too often I want to pull my hair off of my face, to the detriment of my curls.  And actually, my hair is still wet in this photo, which is a different look than when it finally dries.  I meant to take a second picture, but finals week defeated me.  The ribbon was also a little short, and ended up falling out after a couple hours.

This calls for a Skirt!

4582772249_6b36a10104_oOufit:

  • Flip flops: Walmart
  • Green Skirt: Cross Cultures (hippie store)
  • White Lace Tank: maurices
  • Black Cardigan: maurices
  • Necklace: Freejewelry.com

Notes:

Posting around here slowed down this week because of impending finals.  However, with no classes next week, and only one final homework assignment and one take-home final, I should have plenty of time to make posts next week.

In the latest installment of my fashion related photos, I’ve decided to show off what I call my sari skirt.  I have no idea if it’s actually made from a sari, but I think it’s pretty enough to have been one.  This is yet another find from my hippie store back home (which I have finally remembered the name of!).   That store is a treasure trove for unique things that are either cool or lovely.

This skirt is light (but surprisingly, not see through), and so I don’t get to wear it until the weather warms up a bit.  It’s a wrap skirt, so it’s one of the few things that truly is “one size fits all”.  Since it already has a color contrast from the orange band at the bottom, I’ve previously had a hard time forming outfits with it.  I’ve usually reached for a black tank top, but I feel like that darkens the outfit too much to really let the skirt shine.  Now that I have a white cami, I feel much better about this outfit.  However, white cami is pretty much see-through, not something that I can wear and hope my students won’t notice.  Hence the need for the black cardigan.

My hope is to sometime soon get a gray cardigan or a brown cardigan.  I think the brown would play off the orange at the bottom well (orange is not a color I often feature in my wardrobe.)  Or since there are gray tones in the green pattern of the skirt, the gray could keep the whole outfit looking light and springy like I originally wanted.

In fashion related news, one of my favorite blogs Academichic, is having an event called “Dress your Best” week.  When it comes to fashion, so many of us, including me, are interested in hiding all our flaws.  Our lumpy stomachs, our flabby thighs, untoned arms, or whatever other feature we decide to take offense with.  Dress your Best means instead of dressing your worst features and focusing on them, dress your best features, the things you like.  The conditions of the contest stipulate you pick five fave features, and then next week, you dress to show them off.  You can read more here.

I will be participating, and my five features are

  1. Hair – My hair is curly and adorable.
  2. Wrists – Despite my weight gain and other issues, I still have tiny hands and wrists.  It’s one of the few places where my weight gain doesn’t show.
  3. Ankles – aka the bendy ankles of doom.  Like my wrists, these are my feet are still delicate looking, and my calve muscles aren’t too bad either.  Expect heels at some point.
  4. Hips –  Surprisingly, I don’t mind my massive, womanly hips and actually love showing them off.  In the whole weight gain frenzy, I’m more scared of my waist, but I still have a slightly hourglass figure.  In hiding my waist, I’ve also tended to hide my hips.  No more!
  5. Neckline – There’s a fancy French word for the collarbone and neck area.  In recent years this hasn’t been as much of a showstopping feature as it was when I had very prominent collarbones, but I can still rock showing it off.

So that’s the list.  Watch for a post next week featuring one of these lovely features (ha, a pun!), and there might be more than one.   What are your 5 favorite parts?  Leave a comment and try “Dress your Best” week out for yourself!

Shopping Day!

4549291043_7a63d3f823_oOutfit:

  • Orchid Tank: Maurices
  • Black Sweater: Target
  • Jeans: Old Navy
  • Black Purse: Rosetti, via TJMaxx
  • Sporty Ballet Flats: ?

Notes:

So today was a shopping day.  It’s not often that I’m bitten by the shopping bug, so when I am, I tend to indulge it.  I came back with a decent haul, but I’m not going to share, because you’ll probably see some of the new pieces showing up in my wardrobe in the near future.

This outfit is another attempt at layering, with the use of lace to draw attention away from my middle to parts of my body that I don’t mind so much.

I am now convinced that TJ Maxx is awesome, just in the sheer amount of money to be saved there.  Like most discount stores, it takes some digging, especially if you’re looking for something in particular.  My friend Erin came with me, and we managed to find her the most perfect little black dress.  Not the heels to go with, sadly, but that will be a quest for a different shopping day.

The tank is from a store named Maurices.  I am utterly in love with this store.  They like to advertise that they cater to all sizes, and it’s true!  They do!  I have several pairs of nice pants that I got from there, and as of today, a nice collection of colored tanktops.  I love that it is not hard to find my size, and everything there is cute, even if it’s not cute on me.

Also, you may have noticed, I have new hair!  Well, a new haircut.  I have the most horrible habit of not going to my stylist as often as I should.  I don’t really have a good excuse, I just tend not to.  This is a problem when I like to keep my hair on the shorter side of medium length.

4549928334_3877e0d7d0_oHere’s a better shot of what the hair looks like.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s a bit shorter than my hair was a couple days ago.  And it’s got some nice face framing elements.  We’ll see in a couple days how those shorter pieces behave when they’re curly.

Hair Lesson Time: Curly hair does not need to be washed every day, and in fact, should not be washed every day.  Washing strips the hair of its natural oils, and in curly hair this causes chaos.  The curls don’t hold together well, and basically become a giant ball of frizz.

And there are many kinds of curls.  My friend Erin has what she calls “Shirley Temple” curls: very tight ringlets that spring back when you pull on them.  Another friend, Michelle has curls that are very loose, almost like waves.  Mine are somewhere in the middle.  The rule of thumb for any set of curls, though, is that curls are shorter than the same hair straight, and generally speaking, the shorter the hair, the more the “spring”.  This is because longer hair is heavier.  So my new cut may come to my chin while straight, but who knows what length it will be when I wear it curly.

All in all, a very productive day I think.  Shopping bug has been soothed.  Until it bites again anyway.