Custom Style

Sewing that's Retro, Geek, and Chic

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World’s Coolest Aunt or Biggest Goober?

This past weekend my first niece celebrated her 4th birthday with a fairy princess themed party.

Niece 1 all dressed up for her fairy princess party!

Recognize the tutu? I can’t believe how much mileage she is getting from that thing! She is wearing it over the skirt of her store-brought fairy dress.

My sister went all out, making decorations and planning fun crafts & games for 6 little girls. (She even ordered fairy wings for all of them!) And I had promised to bake and decorate the cake.

Almost everything my sister used for decorations, crafts, and favors came from the dollar store!

The night before the party, I made the cake. It was an orange-flavored cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.

My house smelled like an orange dreamsicle for about 24 hours – yum!

Cake-making is sort of my hobby, but I’ve never really taken the time to learn the fine art of decorating them bakery-style or sculpting something amazing. I suppose that most of my cakes are simply pretty yet obviously homemade. And most are a bit of an experiment using trial and error as I go. But they always TASTE great even if they are ugly and a bit of a cakewreck.

I think this birthday cake was closer to “wreck” than most of my previous creations (partly because I was lazy and it was late at night, so I didn’t want to pull out all the fancy piping tools I have). And it’s kind of hard not to make a toadstool look suggestive when you don’t use fondant.

My sister made an adorable clothespin fairy topper!
I think it redeemed my lazy decorating a little.

Niece 1 is still young enough to appreciate anything colorful and sweet, so she loved it. =)

The invitation I received said “Have your little girls put on their “fairy” best and help us celebrate her 4th birthday with cake and ice cream, crafts, and games. Fairy wings will be provided.”

I may not be a little girl anymore, but I am a costumer and I couldn’t resist the chance to dress up! So while the cake was cooling the night before the party, I went digging through my random costume pieces for a fun outfit to wear.

I pulled out a lime green skirt I had purchased from a wardrobe sale at the end of a film shoot I worked on, and paired it will a fluffy white petticoat (to which my husband said “ohh, nooo.” with a groan).

I even had a matching lime green t-shirt! And a scrap of matching sparkly lime green tulle! – which I used to tie bows to my shoes and to my ponytail. Not bad for a last minute costume!

The Pixie Chicks.
Can you tell what my favorite color is?

I didn’t have any wings but Niece 1 had an extra pair left from an old Halloween costume that she let me borrow for the party. (She told me I looked like Tinkerbell.)

You can’t really see it in the photo, but I have on matching green eyeshadow.

Here’s a close-up of my shoes:

The holes in Crocs make it so easy to decorate them!

Once the guests arrived, they got their wings and flower crowns,

Three little pixies playing piano.

They made a craft (toadstool houses!),

Plastic bowl, Styrofoam cup, and stickers.

Played a couple of games,

Toss the Froggie beanbag onto a lilypad

Girls playing Xbox Kinect and the view of them “planting flowers” on the screen.

And of course, opened presents and ate cake & ice cream.  It was a fun party.

Later that night, my sister called to tell me that Niece 1 had proclaimed that “Aunt Brooke is the coolest aunt EVER!” after everyone had gone home. So in the eyes of a 4-year-old, at least, I’m not a big goober. =)

Maybe I’m just the coolest goober…

Related posts:

Tutu for a Toddler

Trampoline Ballet – Toddler Tutu Part Two

For Those Who Love To Sew

Recently, I’ve been enjoying some random blog surfing and finding some interesting new blogs to follow. I’ve been inspired by many and glad to see so many others learning to sew or improving their skills.

The common theme right now seems to be people questioning their abilities and/or idiosyncrasies.

So here’s a little encouragement for all my fellow stitchers, seamstresses, costumers, sewists, seamsters, and crafters:

  • Remember: you can’t will inspiration and you can’t force creativity (those who knew me in high school will recall this was one of “Brooke’s Rules”)
  • You will always be your own worst critic.
  • Being a perfectionist is how artist types are wired – trust me, it’s a normal side-effect of a creative brain, and I’ve never met a crafty person in the professional world who isn’t a perfectionist in some way. You aren’t weird. =)
  • There will always be at least one little thing you wish you had time to do or fix when you have a deadline (even if it’s a self-imposed deadline!).
  • There will almost always be a never-ending pile of unfinished projects and you will always want to add new projects to your list.
  • When you get frustrated with a difficult project, put it down and walk away for a while.
  • Everyone who sews, no matter how experienced, will need encouragement to stick with it periodically – being creative is HARD!
  • You will learn at least one thing from every person you work with and from every project you do.
  • There will always be those people who just don’t understand your need to create (but never forget there are plenty of others who completely get it!).

May your scissors always be sharp and all your thread stay tangle-free! Happy sewing & crafting!

And here’s a video I found inspiring, hope you do too:

A Handmade Felt Rose

I’ve been working on restoring a vintage hat for a client and need to make a flower or two for it. So this afternoon, I did a little experimenting.

I have some olive-green wool felt which will be the perfect color for the vintage hat decoration, but I decided to practice making a rose using the same deep-red felt that I used to make my 1940s style hat.

I shaped some petals and hand-stitched them together. Then I added a leaf made from the olive-green felt I plan to use for the hat’s flower. I think it turned out pretty well for a first attempt:

I might sew a pin backing on it and make it a brooch. It would also be pretty on a headband. I haven’t really decided what to do with it yet…

Related posts:

Retro Style Felt Ornaments

Restoring a Vintage Ring Hat

Poor-man’s Stained Glass Window

I love stained glass, and if I had all the tools I had access to when I was in college, all my windows would be decorated with the real thing. But for now, I will be cheap and fake it. =)

Here’s a super easy project for a quick Christmas decoration. No sewing involved but I wanted to share.

You only need four things: tissue paper (in various colors), a pencil, scissors, and double sided tape. (Cardboard for template is optional.)

I chose three colors of tissue paper – red, green, and lime.

I don’t remember why I first thought to do this to decorate our back door for Christmas. Maybe that was the year we lost our fence in a windstorm and I thought it was a good idea for privacy.

I made a cardboard template to fit in the rectangles of the window frame and traced it onto the tissue paper. Then I simply cut out the tracings, and with a few very, very tiny pieces of double-sided tape around the edges, fastened the colored panels carefully to my window (on the inside).

I kept the bottom left open for the doggie viewing-hole & because I didn’t want to cut into a whole new piece of tissue paper for just 1 panel.

During the day, I have a fake (but pretty) stained glass look to my back door. And at night, it’s extra privacy and glowing color on the outside.

Cleanup is easy. All I have to do is rip the paper off and throw it away when the decorations go back into storage.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Retro Style Felt Ornaments

It’s December, so my husband and I have been pulling out all the Christmas decorations. I have a retro 1950s style kitchen and I try to keep my kitchen decorations in line with the theme.

When I was born, my grandmother made me a felt Christmas stocking. I’m sure it was one of those stocking kits similar to what they still sell today, but she made it over 30 years ago – so it has a simplicity that the more modern patterns lack. Just felt pieces, sequins, and beads. I hang it on one of the upper cabinet doors in my kitchen.

My childhood Christmas stocking

On the long row of cabinets, I hang one felt ornament from each upper cabinet handle.

I designed & crafted the six ornaments in various shapes that I found in retro graphics or wrapping paper patterns. In order to attach them to my cabinet handles, I attached two pieces of ribbon on the top of each instead of a loop. That way I can just tie them on with a bow.

Making the ornaments is quite simple – I just started with a basic shape and then cut tiny pieces free-hand and hand-stitched them on, adding sequins here and there. Once the front design was finished, I cut a plain piece of felt for the back and stitched around the outer edge of the entire thing (remembering to insert the ends of my ribbon at the top edge).

A little project like this is great for scraps and it is good hand-sewing practice. (I would have loved to do something like this as a kid!) Sometimes it is just nice to do a craft that doesn’t really involve much planning or patterning – you can just cut and start sewing, making it up as you go. And if you don’t like how it is turning out, you can start over without wasting much material. =)

The reason I thought to make my retro kitchen ornaments is kind of a long story.

A number of years ago, I was working as a costumer on a low-budget TV movie/webisode series and we had a large pile of felt fabric scraps leftover from one of the webisodes that required some costumes made from felt (in the script, the mother character was making costumes for her daughter’s school play).

Since it was just before Christmas and the workdays on set were long (and often boring), I kept myself busy by creating some hand-sewn ornaments out of the felt scraps and a few sequins that I had in my personal stash.

I created 15 unique ornaments for some of my fellow crew members and a few of the actors – it was a completely free way to give personal Christmas gifts and I had a lot of fun making them. A couple of my closest crew friends even joined me in the craft and made some gifts for their own friends & families.

Some of the ornaments are inside jokes and others just represented an interest/job of the recipient. I sketched the more detailed ones and then traced the shapes I drew onto the felt before cutting & sewing.

I gave each ornament inside a hand-delivered Christmas card, and something like this would be perfect for mailing inside a card because they are flat and light – they might not even cost extra postage (you’d have to weigh it to be sure though).

Everybody who got an ornament was thrilled – especially since each one was so personal.

The most detailed ornament was of the Yellow Submarine from the Beatles’ Album cover:

I made this for a guy who is a major Beatles fan, and his reaction to the gift was probably the most amusing – he was so astounded that I made him something so in line with one of his favorite things, he was worried that his girlfriend would be upset that it was his “favorite gift ever!”

And the Hippo was my favorite:

Because who wouldn’t want a Hippopotamus for Christmas?

Related posts:

A Handmade Felt Rose

Happy Birthday, Blog!

Today is the 1st birthday of the Custom Style blog. =)

On this day, one year ago, I took a chance that a free blog/website through WordPress would generate better results for me than paying for a hosting plan at my own domain – I still own my domain and may move back to it in the future, but I will definitely be taking WordPress with me!

This is my twentieth post – so I haven’t done too badly with the up-keep. I have many exciting things planned for my business & my blog in the coming year, and I should have much more to write about soon. (My next post will be about a Christmas craft – retro felt ornaments.)

I can see from the search hits and the number of clicks each post gets what seems to be most popular with readers, but I would love to hear what you – my few loyal followers and multiple random visitors – would like to see in future posts. I love all the comments and the emails I have received so far!

I really enjoy answering questions about sewing. And I like to help teach a little about costume & fashion history (as you may have gathered from some of my previous posts).

What would you like to read about or see? Do you have a favorite previous post and why do you like it? Did you find the answer to a question? Have you been inspired to try anything you have seen on Custom Style?

So leave me a comment, ask a question, or use the contact page (if you’d rather share your thoughts privately). I am just generally curious about my audience. =)

Thanks for reading – I look forward to the next year of blogging!

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