Friday, January 31, 2014

Britt Tip: Keeping a belt in place without loops

I love fashion. I mean LOVE. Lately I've been taking it to the nerd-girl level I once reserved for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings when I was a kid (ha! yeah, a kid). I study the Pinterest fashion board almost everyday before planning my outfit. There is so much cute outfit inspiration out on the interwebs! However, they're not always as easy to pull off as they look.

Two of my favorite things are skirts and belts. They're what I buy most at thrift stores. But most cute skirts don't have belt loops. And thank goodness for that, because I think only denim skirts should have loops. I still want to wear a belt sometimes, though, to break up my waistline and or add a color contrast.

Cuteness! (Not my photos. All rights where rights are due to the original owners.)
I have found a nifty, if not very elegant solution. My husband recently got some nice new dress shirts. You know, the kind that come all nice and folded with plastic in the collar, cardboard inside and pins everywhere. Well he left some of those pins lying around and I had a moment of divine inspiration.

These pins, which most of us would just throw away, work great to hold a belt in place on a garment that doesn't have any loops! So I hoarded a little pile of them! Of course this won't work for all clothing or all belts. And of course you can see little bits of metal on the belt (I've thought about painting a few in neutral tones using nail polish). But if you're like me - and I hope I'm not alone in this - you hate hiking up a skirt and having to re-align a belt all day.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Make a Dried Flower Keepsake & Drink Vanilla Cinnamon Black Tea

While I haven't posted anything new in months, I have been crafting and drinking tea. Planning a wedding then jumping right into the holidays afterwards is awfully distracting!

In my defense, I did have this whole big wedding-themed post planned out. Then my phone was stolen. With all the lovely process photos. Then my hard drive died, with all the lovely copies of those photos. (If you're wondering, I bought monogrammed canvas bags for my bridesmaids then dip-dyed them with RIT in colors to match their dresses).

Anyhoo, there is a little project I've been wanting to share for quite some time. It's nothing fancy, but it is an original idea and not inspired by anyone else's blog. Which makes me somewhat inappropriately proud of myself, even if this craft is pretty simple.

Have you ever gotten a bouquet of flowers that meant something extra special to you and you wish you could keep it forever? That's what this project is about. We're going to dry that sentimental bouquet and turn it into a keepsake that is seriously grandma-worthy. Because dried flowers.


I originally did this project in 2011 after catching the bouquet at my now sister-in-law's wedding. My now husband caught the garter. Actually, it was a set-up. Both items fell on the ground and no one else would pick them up. So we had to. I knew he and I were going to get married sometime in the near future, but it still felt like a special moment.

This time around I made the crafting experience even better by sipping one of my wintertime favorites: Cinnamon Vanilla Black Tea from Trader Joe's. It's only available around the holidays (look for the box with the festive lemur on it) and I generally save drinking it for the holidays only. It's more special that way. Even though it has been an unseasonably warm and dry January in San Francisco, I felt like nighttime lows in the 40s still justified some holiday coziness. The tea is great on its own, but I like it most with milk and honey. Yum!

What you will need:
a bouquet of flowers with sentimental value (or from the supermarket, if you just like flowers)
a basket, vase or other container to put the flowers in
florist foam
ribbon (or a bridal garter)
serrated knife

I found the perfect little basket you see above at Craft Market in Carson City, Nevada, when I was still living in the mountains. I got lucky that this amazing store had an entire room full of baskets, but most craft stores should have a decent selection of baskets. I have also found baskets and other inexpensive containers at thrift stores as well as discount stores like Ross. My main suggestion in choosing a container is to avoid anything that is thinner at the opening than the base, because you want to make sure you can fit the florist foam into it with ease.

Florist foam can be found at most craft stores, online, or at your local florist shop. It is usually green and is definitely a superior option to coarser white foams that can also be found in craft stores. Choose your basket or container first, so you know how big a chunk you will need.

I decided to re-use the basket and foam from the first time I did this project. Partially because I just love that little basket and partially because I'm lazy. Below is how it looked before I decided to take it apart. It went through two moves and two different climates. Still sweet, but starting to look a little tired.

The original tossing bouquet was pretty small. I found I needed a few extra flowers to fill out the basket in a pleasing way. The first time, it was late summer in the Sierras, so I was lucky enough to have some happy flowers around my yard.

This time, I went to the supermarket and bought a bouquet that had similar colors to my bridal bouquet. Your bouquet might have enough to work with, but it's nice to have the extra flowers just in case.

The first step, of course, is to dry the flowers. I knew I wanted to something with my bridal bouquet, so after I got home from the wedding I hung it upside down outside my kitchen door and pretty much forgot about it for a few months. As you can see, it was a very high-tech process.

In retrospect, I probably should have been a bit more gentle with it. Luckily, it was a pretty big bouquet, so not many of the flowers were flattened by the wall.

The best way to try flowers while maintaining their color and shape is to hand them upside down individually. NOTE: The upside down part is important. If you just lay them flat somewhere, chances are they will turn brown. While my original bouquet was already dry, I still needed to dry out my extra flowers. Before hanging the flowers, I cut the stems down somewhat and picked out any foliage I knew I wasn't going to use, such as bear grass.

The first time I did this project, I separated the bouquet and hung each flower along a window sill using pins. I approximated this method below with the push pins on my bulletin board.

I happened to have some clothespins left over from my lost bag-dyeing project, so I decided to use them to hang the extra flowers from my laundry rack. I left them there for about a week, until they looked and felt dry. You can see the difference below. It's important to let the flowers dry out completely, because you want the stems to be stiff enough to push into the florist foam.

The next step was to pull apart and sort the flowers from my dried bouquet and toss out the old, sad one. I made two piles, one for damaged or moldy (eww!) flowers and the other for the pieces I wanted to use. If you dried your bouquet whole, be patient with this part. Go slowly to avoid damaging the delicate flowers and foliage.

You will probably need to trim your chunk of florist foam to fit your chosen container. I did this using a serrated knife, trimming the corners until it dropped easily into the basket.

I was lucky that many of my lovely roses dried very nicely. I started with placing the prettiest one in the center of the foam. Then I spaced the rest evenly around it. You will most likely have to trim the dried stems to get them to match the height of your foam and container. I pushed the stems into the foam about an inch deep, to make sure they were secure. It's best to push slowly from the very bottom of the stem, where it is thickest, to avoid breaking it.

Some of the stems are bound to have leaves or extra off shoots that you will need to trim off. Carefully strip these stems with your fingers or your scissors.

Adding flowers to the foam is a creative and subjective step. There's no right or wrong, just do what you think looks nice. 

I tried to vary the levels of the flowers so that those in front were lower than those in back, creating a somewhat rounded look. I also tried to evenly space flowers of similar shapes and colors around the foam. In spaces that had gaps, I added the non-flower leafy pieces like my bay leaves and juvenile eucalyptus leaves. I attempted some symmetry, but tried not to overdo it, so that the bouquet would still look natural.

At this point I discovered that my new bouquet was a bit taller than the original one. I fixed this by shaving a sliver off the bottom of the florist foam. I used my scissors, but a serrated knife would have been easiest (especially with moister, new foam).

After plopping the bouquet back into the basket, I made a few more small adjustments. I wedged some left over flowers into any blank spaces I noticed. This was pretty difficult to get them firmly into the foam though, so I would recommend trying to eyeball this before you put your bouquet into its container.

Finally, add your ribbon (or garter) and you have a lovely little dried keepsake, ready to remind you of fond memories for years to come. I ended up hanging it near the bedroom door, so I will see it every day!