Category: Tutorial

How to Make a Bow Ear Cuff

As you might have noticed, ear cuffs have been super trendy lately. I’d seen tons and tons of pictures all over the web of wire cuffs with bow, but no tutorials. So I thought I would add my version of instructions to the information highway.

For this project you need to make this cuff, and add the wire bow to it. Stop before bending the cuff blank into shape, so it is easier to attach the bow. Here are all the supplies I used: 1 black 20 gauge cuff blank, 26 gauge gun-metal colored wire, wire cutters, round nose pliers, and a pen to shape the cuff.

UPDATE: If you like this tutorial check out my newest one here: Pearl Wire Wrapped Ear Cuff.

A Little Ear Cuff Tutorial

This ear cuff, like the first one I posted about (read that post here) is very basic, and requires only a few tools and supplies to make. Ear cuffs can be fitted to anywhere on the outside of the ear, without a piercing. I use 20 gauge jewelry wire, wire cutters, round nose, and flat nose pliers, plus a pen to form the wire into the cuff shape.

I know this is simplistic to the point of not being interesting. However, this cuff is the jumping off point for my next jewelry post about how to make a wire bow cuff, and that will be awesome.

UPDATE: If you like this tutorial check out my newest one here: Pearl Wire Wrapped Ear Cuff.

A Mini-Recycling Project: a Lone Earring Into a Ring

About 3 years ago I bought a pair of faux pearl earrings, I think from Forever 21. I only wore them a few times and then let them languish on my jewelry tray for a couple of years. A few weeks ago I rediscovered the pair, but only wore them 3 times before one fell into the furry clutches of:

So I found myself with a single pearl earring. I usually save that sort of thing for later projects, but in this case I already had the supplies on hand to turn it into a ring. This is a really really easy mini-project, scroll through the pictures below to see how I made my sad lone earring into a lovely new ring.

My ring blanks are from Joann, and so is the shell button I used on the second ring. The little pearl in the second ring is real, and came from another lone earring, it already had a flat side so no sanding was necessary. One tip I didn’t take a picture of: If it’s hard to hold onto the pearl while filing it down, wrap one end in masking tape to give yourself something to hold onto. I love my new ring, I’ve been wearing it all the time.

Gelatin Print Tutorial, and Giveaway Results!

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway contest, and congratulations to Terri at Time to Be Inspired (check out her blog!), the winner of the prints! I really enjoyed making them, and all the other gelatin prints I have been making lately. It’s super easy to do, and would be a great activity to do with kids. Here are some of my finished prints:


Here is what you’ll need to make your own:

  • Unflavored gelatin (I used 2 boxes or 8 packets of Knox brand)
  • A dish, pan or cookie sheet to form the gelatin plate in (I used the bottom of a broiler pan)
  • Printing ink (I used Speedball Block Printing Ink in Black from Hobby Lobby)
  • A brayer to spread the ink on the plate (like this one)
  • Something you want to make prints of: leaves, feathers, stencils, etc.
  • Paper, heavier paper like card-stock works well, but you can get cool effects with others like, old dictionary pages, sheet music, handmade paper etc.

To make the gelatin plate, boil 2 cups of water. While it’s boiling, dissolve the packets of gelatin into 2 cups of cool water. Combine the two cups of boiled water with the dissolved gelatin mixture. Pour the mix into your plate form, skim the top for bubbles so the surface is perfectly level. Place in the fridge, the plate should be plenty hard in a few hours, but I like to keep it in the fridge overnight. Here is my ready to use plate:


I didn’t have anything specific I was trying to make the first time I tried this so I had tons of stuff I wanted to try to make prints of, and tons of different types of paper. Here is my collection of stuff to try out:

To begin making prints, pour out some ink onto a paper plate or palette or whatever you got. Spread some onto the brayer and apply to the gelatin plate.


For each run, you will be making two prints. So once the plate is covered evenly in ink, arrange whatever you want to print on the plate. For this run I placed three lace appliqué pieces that were left over from my wedding dress on the plate:

Place a piece of paper over the plate and rub the ink on the paper, be careful not to shift the paper around to much. As you can see in the picture below I was using scrap paper.

Here is that piece of paper pulled up, this is called the negative image.

To get a positive image, pull up the material on the plate carefully. On the right is a picture of the ink that was left on the plate when the lace appliqué was removed.


Using another piece of paper to pick up the leftover ink, this time a sheet of recycled card-stock, I got this image:

Here is a close up:

After a couple of hours of using the gelatin plate it might get a bit mushy, just stick it back in the fridge to firm up again. Over time you might nick the plate or imprint shapes on it, this can result in interestingly altered prints. If you want to change ink colors or otherwise want to clean the plate just wipe it off with clean water, dry it throughly before starting to print again.

Most of my finished prints ended up drying curled up:

To get them to lay flat, I covered a few at a time with a piece of scrap muslin, and ran my iron over them without steam. Then when they were still warm and flexible I bent them back into shape by hand and then stacked them under heavy books.

I find it hard to compose fully formed artwork with the gelatin plate, I like to create different images with the gelatin block and then cut and cobble together pieces into finished pieces of art. Here are shots of me cutting up the lace prints and rearranging them for the giveaway:


On your first attempt it’s best not to try to make anything specific, just play around with objects, paper, inks, negative and positive image and so on. Once your have tons of dried prints, and a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t write down different combinations or layouts you want to try for next time.

For more tips and ideas on gelatin printing check out Printmaking Without a Press’s page on Gelatin Printing Tips she also lots of cool ideas elsewhere on her site. Good luck with your own print making, and congrats again to Terri on winning Zounds’ first of hopefully many giveaways.

UPDATE 1/29/2015: I got a request for a printable version of these instructions, download the pdf here: Gelatin Print Tutorial.

UPDATE: I am now selling my gelatin prints in the Zounds Store!

Make Your Own Simple Wire Ear Cuff

I had never heard of ear cuffs until about a week ago. The concept is simple, a metal cuff that adorns the outside of the ear without a piercing. Cuffs range from plain wire like the one I will be showing you how to make, to intricate cuffs that have beads, chains, etc. Here are a couple of cool ones from around the web (click the picture to go to the origin page):


It’s not hard to find at least one ear cuff you like no matter what your personal style is. Below I go through how to make a very simple wire cuff, from there you can experiment with all sorts of different ideas.

Here is the finished ear cuff I made, I takes about a minute to complete once you get the hang of working with wire. I used 20 gauge black jewelry wire, flat nose pliers, round nose pliers, wire snips, and a ruler. It’s possible to do this without round nose pliers, they just make forming the loops easier. It’s also important that whatever pliers you use, they don’t have ridges, since they could mar the wire. This ear cuff, like most, is flexible and can be placed wherever you like on the ear. So without further ado there is my…

Simple Wire Ear Cuff Tutorial:

That is all you have to do, it takes no time and it’s hard not to just keep making them. I love this style of ear cuff, it looks good with everything. These are so fun to make, I want to experiment with adding some dangling chains. Good luck making your own. Any questions? Just leave me a comment.

UPDATE: If you like this tutorial check out my newest one here: Pearl Wire Wrapped Ear Cuff.

Nail Polish Cabochon Jewelry, Part 1

In a whole ordeal that is only vaguely related to this post, the other night I found myself searching the web for metal ring blanks. I haven’t found one I liked yet but I did find this:

Aren’t they beautiful! The picture is from, click the picture to go to the post. These are super easy to make, usually you see them made into rings but you could adapt them into pendents or earrings or even cool fridge magnets. Here are two of my finished ones:

To begin you need clear flat marbles or cabochons. Cabochon is a jewelry term which technically applies to stones that have been polished smooth as opposed to being faceted. However, the term is often applied to a number of substances like glass or ceramic to describe a smooth, polished “gem” in jewelry making. Anyway these are the ones I used:

These were already in my possession, but you can buy them at craft stores generally in the floral section or online through jewelry making supply sites. The cabochon’s that are available for jewelry making purposes are higher quality and I think would be easier to do this project with. My marbles were irregularly shaped, cloudy, and some had bubbles, but I think they turned out well enough.

I used a bunch of different types and brands of nail polish, from $8 bottles of Essie to the little Bon-Bon bottles from Wal-Mart that are $.97. It takes some experimentation to get the effects you want, but the nail polish will wipe off the glass with acetone so you can do lots of practicing.

So to begin, paint on a layer of clear coat on the flat side of the cabochon, mine was OPI’s base coat.

Next I used a Sally Hansen glitter polish, as a rule of thumb it’s best to work with the most transparent polish to the most opaque. Crackle polish looks good as a second layer or depending on the look you want as a third or fourth layer too. The next layer I did on this marble was a crackle coat, mine was from Avon.

For the next layer on this marble I used another glitter coat, this one is from Essie.

The next layer was the last for this marble, it doesn’t matter how many layers you do. I like to end each marble with an opaque coat, it rounds out the colors nicely.

Below is a picture of a bunch of my finished marbles, it’s addicting to try different patterns. As you can see I tried a bunch of effects.

Of the smaller marbles, some of my favorites were the three below. You can really see the difference of using the crackle coat at different times. On the left it was the third coat after two layers of pink glitter. On the right it was the first layer with a blue opaque coat after that.


As you could sorta see in my first picture of the clear marbles, some of mine had a matte finish. Here is a before and after shot of them:


I love the dark red one, it looks like a matte ruby. The green ones look darker in the picture than they really are, I painted them with an Avon color that looks very similar to the color I use for my Zounds header.

Like I mentioned, making these is extremely addicting, it’s impossible to make just one. I want to make the ruby-red one above into a ring, possibly with rhinestones around it. For the others I’m not sure what they will end up as. I’ve looked all over for nice ring blanks, but the ones Michaels, Hobby Lobby and Joann carry are all the cheapest of cheap plain metal. I think I’ll end up purchasing some cool ones online instead, which you will surely read all about in part 2.

Cute Shorts Made From Men's Boxers

Using men’s boxer shorts as girl’s bloomers or around the house shorts is an easy way to get semi-customized shorts cheap and quick. I saw this idea from Honestly… WTF, originally on Pinterest. Here is their version (click the picture below to go to the post.)

I bought my boxers from Wal-Mart, but I think any clothing store would carry them, my ones came in a three pack. If you want the look above, simple stitch matching white lace to the boxers. Remember to prewash! Especially if the shorts and/or lace are cotton or mostly cotton because they will shrink and might pull at each other funny if they were sewn first. If you wanted a totally no sew pair of shorts, use a product like Stitch Witchery.

Since I had three pairs to work with, I decided to try something a little different and dye one of them bright pink.

On the left are my starting supplies. I used Rit’s powdered dye in Fuchsia. Rit has a ton of dye resources on their website,, including a color formula guide. I decided to use the stove top method to dye my material, since I’ve done it before and I liked the results. I wanted to do a double layer of lace, the larger lace was thrifted and of unknown content. The smaller lace I got from Wal-Mart as well and was 100% cotton. I also threw in an eighth of a yard of unbleached muslin I wanted pink for another project. I didn’t pre-wash the lace, which I should have done, and would definitely recommend you do since my 100% cotton lace shrunk and I wasn’t able to use it.

For more information on the types of dye processes including the stove top method read this, on Rit’s website. Here are my things in the dye bath:


After they had been in the dye bath for 30 minutes, I rinsed them until the water ran clear. I then threw them in the washer with my homemade detergent (recipe here) on a regular cycle. The results were mixed, I’ve read many places that the best attitude when dyeing is to expect nothing, because you never know how they will turn out.

Here are the shorts:

They were 55% cotton, 45% polyester and as you can see, they achieved more of a heather finish.

Here is a comparison of the large lace, which I think must have been 100% polyester or similar synthetic fiber, and didn’t accept the dye very well at all.

Here is the 100% cotton lace, which achieved full color and looked amazing. However, as I already mentioned I measured and cut it before I dyed/washed it. You can tell in the photo the lace shrunk quite a bit and was no longer enough to fit around the shorts.

Lastly here is the unbleached muslin before and after. It took the dye very evenly although wasn’t as vibrant as the 100% cotton lace.

I decided to sew the large lace to the front of the shorts, since I thought that looked nicer. All you need to do is pin the lace where it looks good, and sew it on.

To join the two ends of the lace, I trimmed until there was only a few millimeters of overlap, and hand-stitched the two ends together. I also hand-stitched the crotch opening closed as I want to wear these as around the house shorts. If you were planning to wear yours as bloomers layered under short skirts it wouldn’t matter as much.

Here are the shorts before and after:

I really like them, very cute and feminine for lounging around the house. Another good thing about dyeing, the shorts are now opaque, before dyeing the white fabric was sheer enough to see through. For the other two pairs of boxer shorts I have, I plan on making a plain white lace pair and maybe a black one with lots of lace to wear under some of my sluttier skirts.

Spoon & Fork Rings

Exactly how silverware rings first came to exist is a mystery. Although many people think that in Medieval Europe poor servants stole away pieces of their masters flatware to make into wedding rings. I’ve also read sailors did the same with silver from their ship. In any case, these rings have been made for centuries. In the 70’s utensil jewelry had a great resurgence, and continues to be popular today.

I found the idea to make rings out of flatware through Pinterest. This overview image of the process, from More Design Please, has been all over that site. Do you ever feel like everyone on Pinterest is pinning ideas, but not trying them? I’ve seen that same image on how to make one of these rings a thousand times, but never another person’s attempt. Anyway, the original tutorial on how to make these rings comes from the blog Through the Front Door, check out that post here. It takes a couple of practice tries to get a nice ring, so don’t use your grandmother’s heirloom silver on your first attempt.

For this project you will need:

Flatware which is either sterling silver or silver plated, stainless steel is not suitable, because it is too hard to bend. From what I have read sterling silver is the easiest to work with, but can be hard to find for cheap. I used silver plated pieces, some of which I found for 10 cents, and others for $1 at various thrift stores. When looking for pieces, remember that the thinner they are, the easier they will be to bend. This is why butter knifes, serving spoons, and the like aren’t used, they’re just too thick.

Metal saw or snips, my husband sawed through the first few spoons for me, but I later used heavy-duty snips to score a line where I wanted the cut, and was able to bend the spoon head so broke off at my line.

Sandpaper or metal file, to polish the cut end. If you accidentally score the silverware during bending, use sandpaper to smooth it out as well.

Butane torch, and butane. I bought the same one that was featured on Through the Front Door. It was $7 at Home Depot, and extra butane was $3. If you have a heavier duty torch, that will work too, just be careful not to melt the silverware!

Ring mandrel, which a metal tool used to shape rings. You can also use a dowel or socket that is close to your ring size as an aid in shaping your silverware.

Rubber mallet, to aid in the shaping of the ring. A regular hammer wrapped in several layers of leather scraps or a thick dishtowel, and secured with a rubber-band will also work.

Pliers, ones without ridges are better since they won’t leave indents on the silverware. I wrapped leather scraps around the ends of the ones I used.

Protective gloves, if you have them use welding gloves, if not, thick work gloves will protect your hands while heating the silverware.

Here are some of the pieces I used, all were silver plated:

I also had another fork in the same pattern as the one on the far right, and two other spoons… all of which are now a tangled mess:

The procedure I followed that worked well and resulted in a nice shaped ring:

1. Measure the finger you want to wear the ring on, use paper like Through the Front Door did, or string.

2. Use your finger measurement to mark on the utensil where the cut will be.

3. Either saw the top off the utensil or score the mark deeply with snips, then bend the top until it breaks off at the score line.

4. Sand down the raw edge:

5. Hold the tip of the utensil with pliers, and apply heat with the torch. Use gloves, as the pliers are likely to heat up as well. I applied heat for around 20 minutes, since in my past attempts the metal did not become pliable with lesser exposure. If you are using a heavy-duty torch, the time to heat it up will be considerably less.

6. Douse the metal in cool water. I ran cool water from my tap over the metal, still held in the pliers. Here is my spoon after heating and cooling, as you can see the finish has changed colors:

7. Once the metal is completely cool, hold both ends with a set of pliers, and shape. I used a wooden dowel slightly larger than my ring size, so I could adjust down when I had the proper shape. I made my ring overlapping, you can also make it spiral up the finger, as shown on Through the Front Door.

8. Sand down any roughness, or scratches, and polish.

It takes some time to perfect your technique. I tried to bend them without heat at first but they wouldn’t curve nicely, they stayed very angular. I also tried to bend the metal while it was hot. However, the utensils tended to break at their thinnest point. I think because the metal was cooling unevenly, creating stress points. Once you find a system that works for you, it only takes a few dollars and a few minutes to create a lovely piece of silver jewelry, good luck!!

Handmade Leather Handbag: Part 1

I love leather handbags, they always look classy no matter what you wear. I have had the same good quality faux leather handbag for about 3 years now, and it’s getting rather bedraggled. I, however am unwilling to buy another cheap(er) faux leather bag, and equally unwilling to shell out the money for a real one.

Then I stumbled across this lovely picture:

This gorgeous bag is made of a thrift store jacket, check out the tutorial on, here. Now you might have already guessed where this is going, but I’ll say it anyway, I am making my own leather bag! (muah ha ha ha, take that big handbag companies!) Anyway I already bought the jacket from Goodwill:

I would have like to find one with more details, buckles, snaps, etc, so I could incorporate them into the bag. However, this one’s made of the softest leather I’ve ever felt and I really love the color.

I didn’t know exactly how I wanted the bag to look, and I spent days looking at bags online and drawing ideas.

Finally I came up with this:

It will be a medium-sized bag, with braided strap, and side pockets, the flap will close with a magnetic snap, and the lining will have both zippered, and open pockets.

I want to do a whole tutorial on how to make one yourself, and I will be putting the pattern I drafted for this bag on here as a pdf, just as soon as I finish my own bag.

So start checking out thrift stores for cool leather jackets, to make your own bag out of!

Recycle Old Candles

I, like a lot of people in the wide world, love candles. Unfortunately, in the normal course of events, candles burn down to stumps, or their wicks break, or the sides melt and they are no longer useable. These candle fragments are still perfectly usable wax though, and with a little effort can be return to their former glory. The first step is to gather supplies and assess your candles.

Not all candles are created equal. For instance all the red candles, and the blue in my picture are from Wal-Mart. They have nice wax on the outside, but on the inside is cheap granulated white wax like tea lights are made of. Cheap candles will still melt down, harden, and burn just fine, it just might not be as pretty. If you want to make “perfect” candles I would suggest buying new wax, scent, etc from a hobby store.

I bought a collection of pretty blue and white china dishes from various thrift stores to hold my new candles. Alternatively, you can use a mold, either store-bought or homemade. Rub a small amount of vegetable oil on the inside of the mold so it’s easier to remove the candle when it’s hardened.

The new candles will also require new wicking, and wick holders. Wicking can be bought at hobby/craft stores and comes in different sizes, depending on the finished width of the candles you are making. Be sure to use the right size or the candle will burn in an undesirable fashion. As for wick holders, you can buy them from wherever you are buying wick. I take the wick holders from inexpensive tea-lights:


To reuse the wick holder, just pull out the old wick, slide the new wick in and clamp down with pliers.

Other supplies include a double broiler (I use a stockpot in a deep skillet) a wooden spoon, a knife, and something to hold the wick on top of the candle like a skewer, pencil or chopstick. I would also recommend a big piece of cardboard to protect your workspace, it’s much easier to throw out wax, then it is to scrape it off the counter.

Once you have all your supplies ready group your candle fragments. You can mix colors, and scents, but try not to mix types of wax.

Cut the candles ready to be melted into smaller pieces so they melt quicker, try to remove the old wick and holder. If you don’t get all the wick or other debris out before melting, you will have to fish it out of the molten wax.

The best smelling, nicest burning candle I’ve ever had is the one all cut up above, my parents gave it to me for Christmas about 6 years ago. I was worried the scent would cook out of the wax, which can happen. If you don’t want to remove the smell don’t heat the wax up too much, and of course never let the wax boil. I usually heat them at a low-medium temperature. True candle-makers use thermometers to decide when to pour, I just wait until everything is completely melted and then pour.

My makeshift double broiler is on the right, this works fine since I only melt two or three candle stumps at a time. If you were melting more you would want the water to be covering more of the stockpot.

As your wax fragments melt, you need to prep the mold or container. Take your wick holder and wicking and wrap the top around a skewer/pencil/chopstick. To help the wick stay in place while you pour, dip the very bottom of the wick holder in melted wax and press to the bottom of your container. Here is my teacup prepped for wax:

The first wax pour should only be half to a quarter of the container, left is immediately after pouring and right is once the layer is mostly hardened.


Wait until the first pour is mostly hard, but still slightly warm before re-pouring. To insure the second pour adheres to the first well, poke several holes near the sinking.


Pour the rest of the wax:

As you can see, from my very small blue candle stump, I barely got enough to fill this teacup… but the blue candle smells so good, I don’t mind. As you can also see this candle hardened with a bit of a pockmarked surface. This happens for a couple of reasons, check out this table from Nu-Scents, of candle problems to troubleshoot odd effects like pockmarking if you want to fix them in your next candle, here. I don’t really mind it, once its burn a bit it won’t matter anyway. Once the candle hardens, trim the wick and it’s ready to burn.

I followed this same procedure over and over to fill up my other containers:

As you can see my favorite candle melted and poured much nicer, I think solely because it was made of nicer wax to begin with.

Good luck recycling your own candle fragments, it takes awhile to do, but the supplies are minimal and the gain is huge.

Singer 15-90 Restoration: Part 5

This will be my next to last post in my Singer restoration series, because I’m almost finished! Last night I repaired all the electrical components, with a lot of help from my husband Matt. If you haven’t yet read the other posts here is part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.

My machine’s wiring was in terrible shape. When I first plugged in the machine the foot pedal wasn’t controlling the motor, the motor was running off and on, but the light worked. The first thing I did was dismantle the electrical system, the 15-90 is unique because the electrical system is removable, here is the diagram of the electrical components on the 15-90:

Once off the machine I inspected the wiring. Basically the motor and light had crumbling insulation, which meant exposed wires, and the foot pedal’s ring connector wasn’t attached anymore. You can see all the damage best on this picture of the 3 pin terminal:

Supplies for repair:

To re-cover the exposed wires we used heat shrink, which is plastic tubing you can cut to size and shrinks tight when heat is applied. Technically you are suppose to use a heat gun, but a lighter works just fine. We started with the motor, here it is before:

One side was completely exposed, the other had crumbly old insulation still intact. I stripped away the old insulation down to about an inch from the motor.

Matt then covered the wires in electrical tape, then heat shrink tubing and applied heat.

Here is the completed repair to the motor:

We followed the same procedure for the light’s wiring:



The foot pedal repair was a bit more complicated, here is the wiring before:

I stripped the old insulation down an inch or so and Matt clamped on a new ring connector. We tried at first to re-use the old ring connector, but the wires were soldered/melted into it. So in the middle of the project Matt ran to Wal-Mart to buy clamp on ring connectors. If you need to use new ring connectors use the 3 pin terminal to determine the correct size. You could also solder the old wiring back together.


At the other end of the foot pedal the connections were solid, but there was a little wire poking out, which I covered with a small piece of heat shrink.


To finish I re-connected all the ring connectors on to the 3 pin terminal, here is a technical drawing of the correct order from the 15-91 adjustments manual:

Pin 1(yellow): foot pedal and light fixture. Pin 2(black): foot pedal and motor. Pin 3(red): motor and light fixture

We plugged the power cord in and everything worked, light came on no problem and the foot pedal once again controlled the motor! I put the whole electrical system back on my machine, and it looked great. I need to order a new drive belt before I can test its sewing abilities but I don’t foresee any problems.


This machine has come a long way from the thrift store trash it was before. In my next post I will be purchasing a new drive belt and doing some sewing with my completely restored machine.

Having problems with your own vintage Singer? I’m no expert but I would love to help you puzzle out your problem just leave me a comment.

UPDATE: How to Clean & Restore Vintage Singer Sewing Machines the eBook is now available in the Zounds Shop! Save and print all of the information you need to fix your machine! 

Homemade Laundry Soap

I’ve made my own laundry detergent for about 2 years. I started when Matt and I bought a new washer and dryer. The washer is front loading, and as I think everyone knows by now, needs low-suds detergent. I found my recipe on this page on, and I love it. It is very cheap, I haven’t done my own calculations, but this pdf (which also has a cost worksheet, and other recipes) come up with the cost at around 1 penny a load. Most other name brands come to about 15 cents a load. I love it because you don’t have all the packaging, unknown chemicals, and fragrance in most brands.


  • 1 bar Fels-Naptha soap. Alternatives include Ivory, Castile, or Zote. I tried Zote, and loved that it was pink, however the bar was very sticky and hard to finely grate. The finished detergent was very chunky, and sometimes in cold washes didn’t dissolve all the way. I think a food processor might solve that problem.
  • 1 cup Borax (sodium borate). For a gentler detergent omit the Borax. Keep in mind that sodium borate is a skin and eye irritant and is toxic if eaten.
  • 1 cup Washing Soda (sodium carbonate). Also called soda ash, this is different from baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and like Borax is a skin and eye irritant and is toxic if eaten.

It’s really so easy to make this detergent here is how to make it in pictures:

I’ve only got one picture of the Borax and Washing Soda because they look exactly the same… I actually don’t know which this one is:

1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap grates down to about 2 cups, I think with a food processor you would end up with a little more, and if you use a different soap bar it won’t be the same.

For normal loads I use 2 tablespoons, and for delicate or small loads I use 1 tablespoon.    Over time the ingredient can settle, just stir the detergent before adding it to the washer. I only make a bar’s worth at a time, because for a 2 adult household it last around 3 months. Making a larger batch is very simple: 2 parts grated soap to 1 part each of the Borax and Washing Soda, use this formula for other soaps that don’t equal 2 cups.

I also use white vinegar as a natural fabric softener, I just add it to my machine’s fabric soften compartment before I start the load. It’s great for removing any trace odors, softening fabrics, and removing static cling. When I use vinegar I don’t need to use a dryer sheet to remove static for most things.Fels-Naptha soap is also good for pre-treating stains, and whitening whites. I dampen a dingy white item with water and rub the bar all over, let it sit for an hour and wash normally with other whites.

All washers are different, so some experimentation will be needed. If you don’t have a good experience with this formula try another or tweak your ratios.

Remember that it’s really the water that is getting the clothes clean, the detergent is only an aid!

Singer 15-90 Restoration: Part 4

This post is my latest update for my restoration attempt on my 1948 Singer sewing machine. Here are part 1, part 2, and part 3. So to quickly recap, I have removed all the electrical components on my machine, I have also taken it completely apart, cleaned, polished and put it back together. I don’t think that any part of the machine is especially hard to put back together and so didn’t go into great detail about it, however I am making an exception for the tensioner. I had quite a few problems with it but today I finally squared away the silly thing.

First I haven’t covered yet that after I had the machine cleaned up and back together I oiled it. It is important to oil the machine after a total tear down cleaning because there is (or at least should be) no old oil left to lubricate the parts. Only use sewing machine oil and do so according to your manual.

Okay so to take the tensioner off the machine simply turn the thumb nut like you are adjusting the tension to the left and keep turning until it is off the machine. You can then clean it thoroughly. Here are the components you will have:

The 15-89, 15-90, 15-91 and probably others I don’t know about all have the same tensioner any of their manuals will tell you how to put everything back together, but not very clearly. Here is what you should be starting with:

Here are the two illustrations you will need to put the tensioner assembly back together both from the 15-91 manual (sorry I don’t have my own pictures to go with this, it’s a two hand job):

To begin take the thread guide plate (L) and slide it along the tension rod (N) making sure to slip align the lug (M) into the recess (P). If done correctly the guide plate will not be able to turn. Next slid the tension releasing pin (J) through the middle of the tension rod (N). I found that a small screwdriver works best for this. Next both tension discs (H) are put on the rod with their flat sides together. Place the indicator (G) on the rod with the open side facing out, with the + and – signs facing the sewer. Next is the spring (F) which fits inside the indicator, and the stop washer (D) will fit on top of that with the extension (S) facing out. Then place the numbered dial (C) against the stop washer (D) with number two against the extension (S). Lastly compress the numbered dial (C) so you can screw the thumb nut (A) onto the tension rod (N), before it’s completely tightened slip the pin (B) into on of the holes around the numbered dial.

See, super easy 🙂 After then tensioner is back together, lower the presser bar, and turn to 0, from there you can thread it and test it out. If the proper tension hasn’t been achieved a myriad of adjustments you can make which I won’t online here but can be found in either the 15-89 or 15-90 manuals downloadable for free off Singer’s website here.

My tensioner worked just fine!

This means that my machine is now operational, but still not electrically powered. All the electrical components will be my next hurdle and hopefully part 5 will end with an up and running sewing machine!

UPDATE: How to Clean & Restore Vintage Singer Sewing Machines the eBook is now available in the Zounds Shop! Save and print all of the information you need to fix your machine! 

Ballet Inspired Tulle Skirt

I have seen ton’s of pretty tulle skirts around lately, here are some examples:


From left to right (click on the picture for origin site): 1.’s Brocade and Tulle Party Frock 2. Fashion is Spinach’s vintage tulle skirt 3. Urban Outfitters’ Pins and Needles Tulle Skirt

For my skirt I used a 1 1/2 yards of cream-colored lining fabric, 5 yards of white nylon tulle, and 1 yard of 2 inch black elastic. As you can see in the picture below I also bought 2 yards of darker beige tulle which I didn’t end up using.

The first thing I did was to make the lining of the skirt. If you wanted to add layer after layer of tulle until the skirt is opaque or wear a slip with the skirt you could skip this step. I reused this pattern, New Look 6004, which I already had and liked, which is a super simple pull on gathered skirt with elastic waistband. I used the skirt panel piece but not the other pieces and created this:

A basic lining skirt un-hemmed on the top and bottom, around 12 inches greater than my waist measurement. You could also draft your own pattern for a lining skirt like on this post on, she also has links on that page to her tutorial on making a tulle skirt.

For my tulle overlay I took all 5 yards of my white tulle and wrapped it over and over in intervals roughly the width of the bottom of my lining skirt. I then sewed a gathering stitch around the top of the tulle. To sew a gathering stitch use the longest stitch setting, and don’t back-stitch or tie off the ends. You can then pull the thread ends  and slid the fabric along to gather it. I gathered the tulle to the width of the top of my lining skirt and pinned:

As you can see I didn’t trim my tulle, it’s still as long as it was originally. The next step is  to sew the two fabric’s together:

To measure for my waistband, I generally hold the elastic tight to my waist, the way I want the skirt to fit and add about an inch for a seam. To sew the elastic use a tight zig-zag stitch:

The best way I know to attach a waistband to fabric is to mark off the center front, center back and both sides on the elastic and the skirt:


Start by pinning the center back elastic to the center back of the skirt and as you stitch, stretch the elastic out so the next pin on the waistband meets the next mark on the skirt. Don’t forget to use a zig-zag stitch so the elastic can still stretch!

Here is my skirt with waistband attached:

I left the lining skirt un-hemmed because I thought I would add lace trim to it, but after seeing it plain I liked it more and hemmed it. I also left the tulle un-trimmed for the same reason and at this point trimmed it to about 1 1/2 inches below the lining. If you attempted this it would be easier to hem the lining before adding the tulle overlay, and trim the tulle before gathering it.

Another thing to keep in mind with this method is that you will have a vertical edge of tulle that is only attached at the waistband where you started wrapping the yards of fabric and where you ended. You can’t really see this edge when wearing the skirt since the tulle sticks together but if it bothers you can stitch the errant edge to the layer below it.

I love how it turned out, but it’s a little more puffy than I wanted. I think that was a problem with the tulle I used. I used the softest tulle I could find, but I think it was still a bit too stiff for the look I was going for. Perhaps with some laundering/steaming I could relax it a bit.



Special thanks to my parent’s for the Joann gift card that financed this project and for the beautiful nail polish I am wearing in the above pictures, also thanks to my husband for taking pictures of me in my finished skirt.

Simple Fix for a Too Tight Skirt


I picked up this dark denim skirt second-hand two days ago. It’s from Ann Taylor and I got it for $3.99. I never try stuff on at thrift stores, I generally hold it to my body and guess if it will fit or not… this time I got it wrong, but just barely. When I tried it on at home it was about an inch from being wearable and about two inches from being comfortable.

First I looked at the side seams, since they were only half-inch and serged, it would be impossible to let it out two inches. I considered adding fabric to one of the sides instead of the front but again I didn’t want to mess with the original seams. Below is how I altered the skirt to fit me, you can follow the same directions for any woven skirt with a zipper. Keep in mind the added fabric will alter fit of the whole skirt instead of just the waist like in a traditional alteration. You should also keep in mind that all fabrics and embellishments you use should have similar laundering requirements.

My extra fabric was some beige colored soft cotton that I bought second-hand: So first thing I did was decide how much fabric to add, I measured the circumference of my natural waist and the skirt. My measurement was around an 1 inch larger, so I decided to add an inch to get the skirt to my waist size and another 1 1/2 for comfort. The piece of fabric to be added also needs a seam allowance, I used a half-inch on each side. The length of the extra fabric should be the same as the skirt with a half-inch seam allowance on either end. For me the new panel was 3 1/2 inches by 19 inches. Below is the panel marked out in disappearing ink:

Next I hemmed the two smaller sides, and finished the raw edge with pinking shears. If you want you could also serge or double fold the edge to prevent the raw edge from fraying.

To determine where to cut the skirt I measured center front and center bottom and marked them with pins, then I sliced the skirt open along that line:

The next step is to pin the extra fabric right sides together to one of the skirts raw edges like so:

Stitch along the pins, back-stitching on each end to hold the thread in place. When one side is done press the seam, then repeat the process on the other side. Once the panel is attached press the seams. Like I said about the top and bottom hemming, you will need to either serge or double over the hem or use pinking shears like I did to prevent fraying:

Here is the skirt after pressing:

If you used an opaque or patterned fabric then your skirt would be finished here, my panel was a bit see thru and quite plain. I added some lace that I purchased back at the beginning of the summer (original post here). If you would like to attach similar lace, pin to the panel of fabric and hand-stitch along the straight edge.


I finish attaching my lace by tacked down the free hanging edge every few inches and binding the top and bottom edge with thread. Here is the result:

My too tight denim skirt now fits very nicely, and it looks awfully cute as well. It’s a little short to wear in winter but maybe with some leggings it would be okay. Good luck trying your own skirt alterations!

Miniature Book Wreath Tutorial

The idea of taking book pages and turning them into a wreath has turned up all over the web lately:


From left to right (click pictures to visit their origin site) 1. Vintage Ivory French Text Paper Wreath Sculpture from Etsy seller SimpleJoysPaperie 2. 3.

Some months ago back when I lived in Wisconsin I made a large page wreath that was modeled after the middle picture from Living With Lindsay. Unfortunately moving wasn’t kind to the wreath, it had so many delicate edges that it was too banged up to be saved in the end. A few days ago I needed something to fill a spot in a wall grouping I wanted done before I had my family over for Christmas dinner and figured that a little book wreath was just the thing. If you click on the Living With Lindsay picture you can go to her tutorial on how to make one. Below is the rather more low-tech version that I used, when completed my wreath was around 8 inches in diameter.


  • Book pages, obviously you can alter this to your liking by using sheet music, dictionary pages, medical text books, illustrations, etc.
  • Cardboard for the base, many other versions use a styrofoam wreath form, for a small wreath cardboard works fine but a large one will need added support.
  • Scissors, and a hot glue gun
  • Optional supply that I don’t use: Paint to color the edges of the pages (should be done before tearing the pages out)

For my wreath form I took a 6in x 6in sheet of thin cardboard, cut a circle out and then cut a circle inside to make a wreath shape. I didn’t measure or trace a form, since the cardboard will be all covered eventually it doesn’t need to look all that nice.

Next up I took my book pages which where about 5 1/2 by 9 1/2 and cut them into quarters (I prefer clean edges but an interesting effect could be achieved with the torn edges facing out). I rolled the quarters one at a time like so:

I continued to glue on rolled quarters to make up the first layer:

For the second layer I turned the wreath over and began gluing again, this time folding the ends under to conceal them.

For the next layers I cut the book pages into 8th so they fit better and continued to glue.

I ended with 4 layers of pages. I constructed a hanger out of a quartered piece of book folded over horizontally which you can see in the left hand picture below and hot glued it on (don’t forget to hold the wreath up to decided which side you want to be the top before gluing on the hanger):

There you have it, one miniature book wreath done and ready to hang.

It’s easy to see why these wreaths are so popular, in every variation they look stylish and are simple to construct… I watched Kill Bill for the 12th time while I made mine, plus there are so many options like size, page choice, edge color, torn or straight edges, and layout that the possible variations are just about infinite.

UPDATE April 6, 2012: My sister, probably in a fit of jealous over my beautiful wreath made her own lovely book wreaths, I love the second one, less of a wreath and more of an old book pom-pom.

My New Vintage Beeline Fur Coat, How to Tell Faux Fur and How to Clean It.

So as I mentioned in my last post I recently bought a vintage faux fur coat at a thrift store in Aurora. I couldn’t tell at first if it was real or not but once I got it home I looked up some ways to id real fur. (Source)

  • Check the base of the fur or the backing, if it’s fake it will be cloth and you will be able to see where the fake fur is sewn on.
  • Check the end of the fibers, real fur will taper off, fake fur will not.
  • If the coat is yours you can burn some of the fibers, real fur smells like burning hair while fake fur will not.

My coat is faux fur but I could swear it was actually big foot fur because trying to get a picture of this thing that isn’t grainy and blurry and discolored has been damn near impossible. I took around 10 pictures and this was the best:

Here is a picture of the label. It says: Beeline Fashions, Golden Bee Collection

After doing some research on Beeline Fashions I turned up a 1976 court case which besides indicating that Beeline had some tax problems gave an overview of the company. Basically women hosted parties in their homes where the newest Beeline fashions were shown off by representatives of the company and the guests placed orders for them. There are quite a few modern examples of parties like this, Pampered Chef, Stampin’ Up, and Essential Bodywear are just a couple. I also found this cute invitation to a Beeline Fashion party:

It reads: I’ve arranged to have a Beeline Fashion Show. I think it is a terrific way for a few of us to get together. It will be a lot of fun seeing and perhaps even modeling the latest fashions. I know we’ll have a grand time if I can count on you to be there. If you want to bring a friend along . . . fine!

So my coat dates to sometime in the late 60’s to the early 70’s, and from the look of it was last cleaned sometime around then. It was a bit grimy and smelled a lot like stale cigarettes and thrift stores. The tag inside the coat says dry clean only, but I have never dry cleaned anything I own, I always find a do it yourself method instead and this was no exception. So without further ado here is:

My Guide to D.I.Y. Faux Fur Cleaning

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Simple Scallop Stencil Tutorial

Making your own stencils is a very inexpensive and completely customizable way to gussy-up walls, furniture or any other paintable surface. I made this scallop edge stencil for the edging along my upstairs bathroom. I have desperately been wanting to paint that room, mostly because I love to take relaxing bubble baths and the glossy stained white paint didn’t add much to the ambiance. Anyway I will be showing my bathroom’s mini-redo in the next week or so but for now here is how to make your own simple scallop edge stencil:

Stencil blanks have the advantage of being washable and longer lasting than cardboard, but for a one time use cardboard will work just fine. The round object can be whatever size you like, from a quarter to a pickle jar all that matters is your stencil blank is large enough to accommodate the object several times over.

The first step is to mark the boundary lines for the scallop design. For me I marked two inches on the top plus one inch on each side.

Next you want to trace the round object as many times as fits on your blank. Leave a bit of space between each shape. Do not make any half scallops or it will be hard to match the stencil up as you paint.

Next you will need to mark a horizontal line cutting the traced circles in half.

This stencil is just about done! All that’s left is to cut out the top half of the circles, like so:

Once all the circles are cut out the stencil is ready to rock. Some tips on using stencils:

  • Use spray adhesive or painters to insure a tight bond to the wall
  • After dipping your brush or roller in paint roll off the excess on paper towels
  • Use many passes with minimal paint instead of one thick coat
  • Wash your stencil off if possible after every use
  • If the shapes come out a little wonk-y or there is bleed through simply take a small paint brush and even out the shapes, no one will notice if a couple scallops are a bit bigger or smaller

Here is a shot of my bathroom with one wall done with the scallop stencil, I think it adds a nice detail to the dark walls:

Singer 15-90 Restoration: Part 3

As you could guess from the title, this post is part 3 of my restoration of a vintage Singer sewing machine. Part 1 can be read here, and part 2 here. Quick recap, I researched this machine ad nauseam, to discover it was in fact a 15-90, made in 1948, and had a removable external electrical system which incidentally needed work. Then in part 2 I removed and took apart the electrical components and was left with a non-powered machine in desperate need of cleaning.

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Singer 15-90 Restoration: Part 2

Here is the second installment of my continued effort to restore my Singer 15-90 sewing machine, part one can be found here.

The 15-90 is an interesting machine because the electrical system is not built in. So it’s only a matter of a couple of screws and poof you have no trace of electric power. I knew that my machine needed electrical work because the first time I plugged it in the motor was running but couldn’t turn the belt and the foot pedal wasn’t consistent. The lightbulb however worked great.

So the next task on my list for restoring this machine was to take apart the electrical system to see what is going on. First up was the light fixture:

My light fixture is not in ideal condition… it wasn’t a factory standard to tie these on. I cut the string and removed the electric tape and saw that the light fixture attaches to the machine body with two small screws:

As you can see one of the holes on the light fixture body is broken, I don’t know if I can substitute a different screw to fix it or if it will have to be replaced. I looked all over the internet but I couldn’t find anything that described how to remove the light cover to change the bulb or clean the glass (the 15-91 has a different and easier set-up) So here is my trial and error guide to:

How to Take Apart the 15-90 Light Fixture

First up since the fixture is completely covered I would undo the two small screws holding the light to the machine so it is easier to work with. Next on both sides of the cover are these thin metal pieces with ridges at the top:

These must be bent and lifted away from the cover, I stuck a screwdriver into the ridges on the end and they came up just fine. With those metal pieces lifted away the cover will come off in your hand. Then you have this:

To remove the lightbulb press it down into the base and turn it counterclockwise. To replace the lightbulb line up the notches, press it into the base and turn it clockwise. The cover can be pulled apart so you have this:

As you can see my pieces are in need of some cleaning. To put the light fixture back together, reassemble the cover by sliding the glass into the metal cover and snapping them back into the black cover. If you put the metal back first the glass will not fit. Hold the metal rods apart and put the cover onto the lightbulb and snap the metal rods back into place. The light fixture can then be screwed back onto the machine and it’s good to go.

To continue taking apart the electrical I unscrewed the motor from the machine body:

It is horribly dirty and grimy behind the motor and if you look close at the connections the insulation has crumbled away leaving exposed wires, here is a close up:

With the motor unattached the 3 pin terminal (where the power cord plugs in) on the side has to be unscrewed and you can lift away the entire electrical system. Here it is laid out:

I took apart the 3 pin terminal to see how my components were connected, besides all the exposed wires, I saw both the foot pedal and motor wires were barely connected/falling off the terminal. As you can see in the picture on the right insulation was just crumbling off the wires.

So I will need at least a new power cord, insulation for the exposed wires, and then I can plug it in again and see where I am at. I am hoping the poor connections indicate that once reconnected it will work fine… fingers crossed. For now I am going to work on cleaning and oiling the machine. I should be able to get it sewing by manually turning the wheel until I can order all the parts I need to make it electric-powered again.

UPDATE: How to Clean & Restore Vintage Singer Sewing Machines the eBook is now available in the Zounds Shop! Save and print all of the information you need to fix your machine!