Headbands from silk scraps

I have made in just a week, since I came up with the idea, about seven headbands from silk squares for myself. I’m addicted to it. Because obviously I need one to match every imaginable outfit. Which shouldn’t be too many though, considering how I wear only black, gray, white and the occasional navy blue and fuchsia. But then with the headbands I can go crazy with color. A little bit.
headbands from silk squares
I had a quite large collection of small silk squares (with sides around 20 inches) acquired some time ago. I’ve stopped buying them when I realized that I like a larger scarf for headwraps, so that it covers my head completely and even forms a nice bun at the back. I also couldn’t properly use the small squares as headbands just by tying them at the back, because they would keep sliding off. Maybe my head is a weird shape or my hair is too slippery, I don’t know, but tying the scarves around my head never worked for me.

headbands from silk squaresSo the silk squares just sat there in a bag in my closet neglected in spite of all their beauty, until one day, when I put on a thick headband of my daughter’s to get the hair out of my eyes, and I realized how comfortable it felt. Because, yes, I have another problems: even headbands generally give me a headache and I can’t wear them for a long time. But this thick headband with a bit of elastic at the back felt great. That was when I started thinking of making more grow-up version of headbands from silk squares.

headbands from silk squaresI looked for tutorials online, but couldn’t find anything satisfactory. So what I had to come up with my own “design”: cut the silk scarf in half, sew it on the wrong side into a tube, turn it inside out, press it so the seam doesn’t show on the outside (I keep it in the middle on the inner side of the headband). Fold the edges of the tube inside, so they don’t show, then put one end of the elastic inside the tube, positioning it on top of the seam, then fold that end of the tube toward the elastic and sew it in. After sewing the elastic in the other side also, you’re done!

headbands from silk squaresI’m sure that my attempt to explain the obvious has amused you enough. Laugh all you want, but I thought this was a brilliant idea. Until you make one of these you won’t know what you’re missing. The greatest benefit for me, besides finding a good use for things already in my closet, is that I’ll be able to wear my scarves all summer, which, I must confess, makes me kind of happy. Why don’t you wrap some happiness around you head too?

Leather Sewing

leather-pouch3This is the most exciting project I have done lately. I was saving these leather pieces from an old jacket in the hopes that some day I would make myself the perfect tote bag, which I know I will never find to buy (not at any reasonable price, for sure). Ever since finding at the flea market an amazing large hobo-style bag, however, my desperation for the ideal tote has subsided and the pieces of leather have been forgotten. Until recently, when I decided that I wanted a large pouch to keep inside my large bag, and throw in there the million little things that find house in there and prevent me from ever finding anything inside this bag without breaking a sweat.

So basically my bag needed a bag. And now it has it.

It was not a very difficult project. It took me a little less than three hours. I used the zipper from another thrifted bag that suffered some transformations and the silk dupioni lining remnant from the large bag (the large bag itself had got a new lining and new zipper before I started to use it).

I made a beautiful pouch that I cannot stop admiring. I managed to achieve this because of very kind bloggers out there who generously posted on the Internet tutorials for this kind of thing. The tutorials I that guided me through this project came from Transient Expression, Rennes, Style Scrapbook and Jezebel, and I am very thankful to these bloggers. This ouch turned out so good that it actually gives me confidence that someday, with the right piece of leather (I will need something thicker) I’ll actually be able to make a very nice tote bag. My pouch actually can fold into a very pretty clutch and it fits quite comfortable under the arm. I am not a clutch type of girl though.

I haven’t been having much time for making things lately, but this project came at the right time. I needed to focus on something else other than editing and writing. It helped. The stress or work and studying seems to have lessened and I can see things in perspective again.

I find my way back to sanity by making things by hand. We all have our ways and this is mine, I guess. It’s a good thing to know about yourself, isn’t it?


I’ve had this idea for the longest time: to make a felted tote with leather handles. I thought it difficult to realize though. How much to knit to get a good size felt? How to attach the leather straps so they don’t look homemade? How to sew the lining — by hand or by machine — so it stays nicely stretched and even? What hardware to use? The headaches of bag making…

Then one day I found at the back of the closet an old wool vest that I had knitted for my husband and after washing it became very short and very wide, because I can (would) never follow pattern directions but make it all up as I go. I tried to felt the vest some more, cut it and sewed it again to make it into a tote. I cut the straps from an old leather bag that I have fallen out of love with and sewed them by hand, to the perfect length. Then I used the zipper pulls from the same old bag to make a sort of hanging/closure type of thing, to which I added some charms. The charms play a double role, both decorative and utilitarian, as they act weigh down the leather pulls, keeping the two sides of the bag together.

I think the result is quite beautiful. It looks professionally-made and I like that it still reminds me of the old vest a little. And don’t the heart-charms are quite suitable for this Valentine’s Day post.

I have been wearing the felted bag little throughout the winter, not because I don’t like it, but because it does not match my everyday coat. But this The Sak leather bag that I ended up buying in the fall has been great.

Actually, I used it in its original form for not more than two months when I decided that it lacked something. It was too plain. A black leather bag. And the strap was a bit too long. So I cut the strap and shortened it, which makes me very happy now because the bag hangs right under my armpit and when in falls from the shoulder I can still carry it on the arm without worries that it will drag on the floor. But the best idea ever was to sew on the bag these beautiful turquoise flowers, cut from an old leather wallet, for a bit of whimsy.

I traced them with a cookie cutter and cut them to shape, then I sewed the flowers to the bag by hand. And this is how now I have the perfect bag. No doubt about it.

Well, doubts will arise, no doubt, after a while. But until then, I can declare myself bag-happy.

And . . . more bloused

hanging corners blouse 1What can I say? It is summer and I am going through some lightly depressive episodes. Somehow sewing helps. What happened to my wardrobe simplicity quest you ask? It is just not a focus at the moment. Besides, my sewing is less about the desire to own these things as it is about the whole process of imagining and making them. Also, the first one is  from a thrifted fabric (bought for $1 enough fabric to make four of these blouses) and the third one is from a linen curtain that I had replaced.

I look at these blouses and I find it bewildering that they used to be large pieces of flat, unravelling fabric. I am always in awe of the act of making things, of creating, so specific to our species. The search for beauty and the dedication to bring it together from scraps, pieces of no significance of their own.

Immediate and concrete, sewing lets my mind wonder and my hands work, which seems to be something that I am in very much need of. Interestingly enough, I am reading right now “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and here is what she has to say on this:

P.S. In that first image, the painting ( girl in a bottle) is done by my dear friend Rachel Fenton, of Snow Like Thought. I admired an image of it on her blog and she sent it to me! Isn’t it beautiful?

Sewing peasant blouses

peasant blouse 1Sewing has made quite a come back in my life lately. I have been sewing like crazy for me, the ballerina-rock star and other little friends. My creativity needs get complete satisfaction from sewing.

I was thinking of childhood games and how they tell of what we have a gift for. As a child in my grandparents village, I remember, I had a little table and a chair that my grandfather had built for me. He would put them out, in the shade of the grape vines. Over there I would work each day on my perfumery of bottles filled with water and flower petals from my grandmother’s summer garden and on making clothes for my little Barbie-style doll. I used to gather all the scraps of fabric I could find to make that doll pants and dresses. It is a memory I had long forgotten–the skinny little doll with a bad haircut, which I had given her on an uninspired day, and all her handmade clothes.

peasant blouse 2The perfumery passion didn’t turn out into anything later (except that yeah, the love for little bottles and the fragrances within always stayed with me) and I never really picked up sewing again until a few years ago. Now it looks like it’s again becoming a passion. A source of happiness. Why buy a new blouse in the store, as beautiful and cheap as it might be, when the rush just goes away in a short while and the blouse turns quickly back into only a thing, at the back of the closet? I can make that into weeks of planning for the right fabric, making trips to the fabric store, finding the perfect pattern, and cutting, sewing, taking it apart again, cutting, sewing on stolen short moments, for days and days. Letting my mind float and dream many dreams. Until it is finally done. The perfect blouse, uniquely mine, reminding me every time I wear it of the beautiful, peaceful hours of work and excitement that went into it.

And now, after seeing my little sewn things, you can go and take at look at the most amazing clothes that I (maybe you too) have seen in a long time: Handmade Annyschoo on Etsy. I just discovered this shop yesterday and I have been fascinated. I would happily fill my closet with her stuff and not wear anything else ever. In comparison, my sewing creations seem so insignificant (and how much this reminds me of how I feel about my writing!). I wish I could make clothes like that, but, oh, well, I guess I have to stay happy with my simple peasant blouses. They are so cute and comfortable, you know? They bring whispers of childhood and freedom, of a small Romanian village on the banks of Siret river. And they are my creation. That should be enough. For now.

Out of curtains and dreams

Curtain bag blueIt’s been a pathetic summer till now. Out of the six swimming classes my daughter had this summer (once every Wednesday), we enjoyed the sun only once. Three times it rained torrentially. For the pool, we pack swim suit, dress, pants, socks, hoodie and rain jacket. Obviously, no sunscreen. I am imagining that the sunscreen producers are all going out of business this summer. Well, what can I say, not a big loss–just read the Environmental Working Group’s 2009 report on sunscreens, which shows that three out of five are completely inefficient.
 Beach dress
Anyway, the ugly, bad, bad summer that’s been until now doesn’t stop me from dreaming of better times, of perfect beach days. Perfect beach bag days. Perfect beach dress days. So I’ve been making summer dresses (just one actually, but I went with the flow and plural sounded better).
And tote bags. Out of curtains. I bought these new curtains that needed to be shortened and from the leftover fabric I imagined bags. Aren’t they gorgeous? The crochet doilies that I appliqued on the red bag are made by my great-grandmother.  I feel so happy to be able to use them.
I am sure that summer will follow soon, and my handmades will get to meet the beach and my beloved, glorious sea, right? Right?