Category Archives: DIY

Making things… Here’s how.

DIY Grommet Blazer Closures

Ooh! I have an easy-peasy DIY project for you! The first time I wore this jacket, I belted it; last time, I wore it open. The reason? It’s too small. But it was a thrifty find and I couldn’t turn it down.

too small

I was tired of not being able to button this baby up, so I went to the craft store and bought grommets. They’re meant for curtains, so I have 5 more sets for other too-small blazers that I might buy. I positioned the grommets over the button and button hole, cut out the hole, snapped in the grommets, and within ten minutes I had a jacket that fits!

new closures

The grommet kit came with a template so I could draw the perfect circle for the grommet. They’re plastic, metal-look grommets and snapped together without any tools.

grommets and ribbon

I bought olive-green, grosgrain ribbon to tie together the jacket, but I can easily swap it out with another color or texture: black, brown, yellow, silky cord, even chain!

up close grommets

I got compliments on this look when I wore it to work–and best of all, it’s not a hack job. It looks like it was made this way!

my outfit

Blazer: Goodwill
T-shirt: Target
Jeans: Jessica Simpson via swapped
Belt: The Vegan Collection
Boots: Novacas

I’ve got to call out my shoes. They’re part of a mini-spree I went on at The Chocolate Shoebox, a vegan shoe and chocolate shop in Seattle. The brick and mortar store is closing and times are tough so I thought I’d support a local, ethical, small business. The boots will cost me 5 points (according to the Wartime Wardrobe Challenge I’m taking part in), but I don’t mind one bit! I got the belt too, but belts aren’t on the list.


These are by Novacas, an all-vegan shoe company that focuses on recycled materials, quality construction, and fair labor. They’re made in Portugal, feel like real suede, are comfy as heck, and don’t make my feet sweaty.

taupe microfiber

I’ve wanted a pair of Novacas for a while now and I’m thrilled to have these ones. I also bought a pair of tall boots, a pair of shoes, four pair of socks, and two t-shirts. Add to that the cardigan I bought a few weeks ago and I’m down to 42 points to spend before I have to start donating to charity!


Filed under DIY, Ethical, Fashion, Thrifty

Bathroom Makeover

When I bought my house last summer I got it because of the potential. You could call it move-in ready–but it wasn’t current and fresh. Case in point: the main bathroom. It was a good size but it was tired. I hated it so much that I don’t even have before pictures. This shot of the old vanity tells the story though:

old vanity

I had three contractors quote me for a bathroom reno. The prices ranged between $4,000 and $17,000 USD. No thanks! This room just needed freshening up. My dad transformed my kitchen and I knew he could improve the bathroom on a budget too.

The shower doors opened up the space and let light in from the window over the tub.

bath after

A round mirror and a new, taller vanity were inexpensive replacements. My mom surprised me with a neat soap dispenser cover at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

new hardware

Latté-colored walls freshened up the room, and silver spray paint turned the wood medicine cabinet into something funky. Brushed nickel hardware took the room from the 70’s to the 21st Century.


The icing on the cake was a custom wall decal by Write At Home that lists a section of the subway stops on the Bloor line in Toronto–the very stops I traversed when I lived in Toronto.

wall decal

I made sure the Castle Frank subway station was included in the list. It’s what John Simcoe, the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, named his cottage. He named the humble structure after his son and–tongue firmly in cheek–called it a castle. The “castle” is long gone and a subway station is in the location now (in a neighborhood called Cabbagetown).

Castle Frank is also the name I gave my house. It’s a nod to my roots in Toronto, references my own humble abode, and honors my dog, Frank, who frankly, runs the place.

So there’s a history lesson and a walk down memory lane in my bathroom. Priceless.

bath collage

Speaking of prices, here’s the rundown of the costs:

  • Shower doors:  $150 (Home Depot)
  • Sink and vanity: $200 (Home Depot)
  • Faucets: $40 (Home Depot)
  • Towel racks: $20 (Ikea)
  • Round mirror: $40 (Ikea)
  • Extendable mirror: $15 (Ikea)
  • Wall decal: $50 (Write At Home)
  • Wall paint: $20 (Fred Meyer’s)
  • Spray Paint: $6 (Home Depot)

At just over $500, this is a far cry from what the contractors wanted. It goes to show that with a little creativity and sweat equity (or in my case, an awesome dad willing to dive into the project), you can breath new life into a room that once looked past its prime.


Filed under Decor, DIY, Thrifty

Getting Over Sticker Shock

My dad taught me a neat trick and I am so impressed with it I just have to share.

Have you ever bought something with an annoying price tag that you can’t peel off? Maybe you peel off the top layer and the sticky backing stays behind? It happens to me a lot, and I’m left picking at the remnants or looking for nail polish remover to clean up the mess.

The remedy? A hair dryer!

dryer and sticker

My parents and I were at the Habitat for Humanity store a few weeks ago and they picked up some neat artwork. The sticker was smack dab on the front of one of the paintings. My dad pointed the dryer at the sticker and slowly peeled it back. It came off clean with not sticky residue left behind.


He says it works on a variety of surfaces: wood, metal, plastic. If the material can handle a bit of heat, give it a try.


Filed under Art, Decor, DIY, General

In With The New, Out With The Old

Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe that another year is coming to a close. I got a nice treat from WordPress today: my stats for 2012. I’m a sucker for stats, and if you are too, you might be interested in a few of them. If not, here’s an outfit post that never made it into the blog.

red and brown

Dress: Florida street fair
Tights: Nordstrom
Boots: Qupid

My mom and I each bought one of these red dresses. We’ve worn them different ways–mostly with black or gray. Here, I wanted to see how brown and red work together.

Now on to the stats!

Top five posts (what people read)

Top five referrers (how people found me)

People from 134 countries read my blog–amazing! And of those people, the top five commenters are:

Thanks so very much to everyone who reads this blog, comments on my posts, and contributes to this amazing blogging community. It’s nothing without you.

What do you want to see more of on the pages of Jean of all Trades in 2013?


Filed under DIY, Fashion

Kitchen Style: Before and After

My parents visited me recently and while my mom and I were busy having fun and shopping, my awesome dad gave my house a makeover. My place is 50 years old–and was starting to show its age. I love mid-century design, but “worn out” and “old” was not part of the plan. The kitchen was renovated in the early 80s, but wasn’t looking fresh. Here’s what it looked like when I first moved in:

kitchen originally

Sink area before

stove area before

The first thing I did was replace the appliances. That was easy–except there was no dishwasher so I gave up 7 precious drawers so I could add one.

I lived with the oak cabinets for a few months, but soon realized that the color was too dark for a room with a low-ceiling. Besides, they didn’t have handles and the finish was wearing off.

I knew replacing the cabinets was a major undertaking–and not cheap! Lucky for me, my dad is a painter. Instead of paying for a major renovation, he painted the cabinets white, added brushed nickel knobs, painted the hinges to match the knobs, and together with my husband, replaced the white counter with a slab of wood block. One new sink and faucet later and look what I have:

new kitchen

The sink area

New deli block countertop

a new, round sink

view of the corner

stove and counter detail

white cupboards

nickel knobs

To make up for the lost drawer space, I bought a magnetic knife holder and a rod to hang utensils. Both were from Ikea and were really inexpensive. I moved the paper towers off the counter to open up space and tied in more black and nickel accents with the microwave, toaster, and electric kettle.

microwave and space to hang things

My dad even wallpapered the backsplash with textured paper made to look like stucco. It’s paintable too, so if I ever want to change the color theme, it’s a quick switch. And that little ceramic plate the bananas are resting on? My mom found that at a garage sale. It’s got a photo of coffee beans printed on it. It’s great for things like keeping fruit, cooking utensils or coffee mugs off the counter.

counter detail

Speaking of the counter, I love it! I treated it with a mineral oil mixture especially designed for wood countertops and cutting boards. Water beads off of it and messes wipe up nicely. That said, if I had a few kids and my kitchen took a beating, I might opt for a lower maintenance surface. While I can sand out stains and water marks, it does need occasional oiling and liquids should be wiped up in a timely manner. But with just two adults in the house it’s not exactly a water park in the kitchen so it’s perfect for us.

Cost rundown:

  • Primer and white paint: $40 (Home Depot)
  • Silver paint for hinges: $7 (Home Depot)
  • Wallpaper: $15 (Lowe’s)
  • Knobs: $45 (Home Depot)
  • Counter tops: $260 (Ikea)
  • Sink: $40 (Ikea)
  • Faucet: $70 (Lowe’s)

The appliances were all on sale at Sears and I used the Sears points I earned from that purchase to get the microwave. What could have been a messy, lengthy and expensive renovation turned into a weekend project that came in at under $500. Of course I had my dad’s free labor. Always a plus!


Filed under Architecture, Decor, DIY, Thrifty

The Dressing Room

I moved into my house this past summer, and even though none of my decorating is 100% done, I might as well start showing you what I’ve been up to. The biggest luxury is my dressing room (aka the shoe room). We have a modest, three-bedroom ranch with smallish closets so I took the smallest of the bedrooms and turned it into my walk-in closet. How decadent!

my closet

This is where I blog, and on days when I work at home, it’s where my writing gets done. The best part: The bookshelves full of shoes! See, I bought a Kindle a couple of years ago and I sold most of my books. The few I have for reference (cookbooks and such), I keep in a closet.

shoe shelves

Having my shoes on display does make me seem a little like Imelda, but I find I wear them all more because I know what I have. And no, I don’t need to buy shoes for a while!

Bracelets, rings, and studs

dangly earrings and necklaces

Putting my costume jewelry on display makes it easy to grab a bracelet, necklace or pair of earrings in a hurry. The necklaces are hanging on simple nails, but I plan to upgrade to small, funky knobs soon. The screened-in vintage picture frame is from the Fremont Sunday Market but it would be a fun and easy DIY project.

I even found a neat way to display my sunglasses. I saw this idea in the Ikea catalog. I tied a ribbon from perfume packaging to the top of the hanger to finish it off.

sunglasses on display

I removed the closet doors and replaced them with purple curtains so I can open it wide and see everything at once. The soft fabric absorbs sound better than wood doors so the room isn’t as echo-y. Also because the cat box is in there–gotta be practical!

drapey closet doors

To balance all the dark wood ladder shelves (even my desk is a ladder style), I bought a lucite chair from Ikea. It’s fresh and modern and doesn’t impede light or sight lines.

lucite chair

The ideas in this project translate to lots of spaces. The book-turned-shoe shelves would look nice in a bedroom and would fit in an actual walk-in closet. No matter what your space, I highly recommend displaying jewelry (in my last place, I hung necklaces on my bathroom wall). You’ll wear what you own more often if you can see it.

All I have to do now is paint the walls. What color would you choose?


Filed under Decor, DIY, Fashion

Light Pink and Dark Blue

Here’s a color combo I don’t wear a lot: Ballet pink and navy blue.

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Cardi: Old Navy
Top: H&M
Pants: Eileen Fisher via Goodwill
Shoes: Jimmy Choo
Sunglasses: Florida Street Fair

I like the softness of the pink paired with the blue. I ruched these pants myself so they’d change from tapered ankle, out-of-date trousers to “the latest thing.” I’ve seen harem styled pants and wide, flowy cropped pants in magazines and thought I’d copy that style. I’ve worn these a few times. I even tried this last year with socks and sandals. Might as well break some rules now and then.

The pants look best with heels, but flats are more practical sometimes. The subtle gold sparkle on my cardigan ties in the gold toes on my shoes.

Do you alter clothes to make them your own?


Filed under DIY, Fashion, Thrifty

Halloween Costume: Rosie the Riveter

We can do it!

Jean as Rosie the Riveter

And I did. Many thanks to Cable Car Couture for giving me the idea of a simple, DIY costume. This Rosie the Riveter look cost me $1.89 (only because I had to buy the bandana at a craft store). I love this look because it’s simple to assemble and instantly recognizable, it’s work appropriate (I can’t go to the office dressed as a French maid!), and it’s given me ideas beyond Halloween.

For example, I want to wear headscarves on a regular basis now. I just might turn rockabilly. This is so fun to wear and a great trick when growing out a short hairdo.

head to toe denim

Another reason I liked this costume idea is because of the sartorial and feminist implications. Here, I’m a literal and figurative blue-collar worker. That got me thinking about two things: women in the workforce, and the history of denim. I’ll start with denim: In the 1870s, Levi Strauss created cotton canvas pants. The 501s went on to become the world’s best-selling item of clothing. Perhaps it’s because they were durable, practical, and riveted.

Blue jeans were a working class staple that cowboys and railway workers wore. But by World War II, they were an essential commodity and sold only to people in defense–like Rosie!

red headscarf

Rosie is an icon. She represents the thousands of American women who worked in factories during the War, often replacing positions of men who were off to battle. After the war, women were expected to return to more traditional duties in the home or in secretarial roles. Many did, but not all. It was the beginning of an important shift in women’s economic power.

On a personal note, my grandmother worked in a factory in England during WWII. She was just a teen when she made airplane engine parts. I’ll write about her soon. It’s an incredible thought to be a schoolgirl one day, and building bombers the next.

Rosie halloween costume

What a lot of inspiration from a simple costume. Thanks again to Cable Car Couture! Oh, and I joined ColorBlind’s special Halloween linkup. Check out the entries here. I’m also participating in Transatlantic Blonde’s WIWW linkup. All those entries are here.

Happy Halloween!


Filed under DIY, Events, Fashion, Feminism, Thrifty

Solaire Chairs for my Front Entry

When I bought my house, I thought of all the wonderful Mid-Century things I could do to it. The place was built in 1961 and is begging for a retro remodel.

One of my first projects was sprucing up the front (if you look back, the area to the left of the entry was soil, with a topiary-style tree and a yellow bush). I remembered an amazing style of chair from my childhood. I didn’t know the name of the chair, but several web searches later, I found out: The Solaire.

Solaire chair

Two Solaire chairs now sit in my front entry. As luck would have it, one of the few places in the country where I found the chairs was right here in Seattle!

two Solaire Chairs

I transplanted the tree and bush to the backyard, covered the soil with weed-inhibiting fabric from the garden store, and laid down a layer of pebbles. Now I have two sunny pops of color by my front door and a place for friends to sit. The backyard is quieter and more private, but it’s nice to people watch and catch the evening sun from the front.

orange and yellow Solaire chairs

I like the story behind the chair. The Solaire was designed in 1972 by Fabio Fabiano and Michelange Panzini. It’s a terrific representation of a clean, modern design. They were popular poolside in backyards and motels across Canada and the USA. I’m proud to have a piece of Canadian design history. And in case anyone else wants them, I chained them down! But if you’re in Seattle, you can buy them at Click! Design That Fits.


Filed under Architecture, Decor, DIY

Red and Black Plaid: A DIY Draped Look

It’s Red and Black Week over at Sophistique Noir. Last year, I missed out on Victorian Kitty’s event because I was doing other things (a 30 for 30 challenge if a recall). I promised myself I’d join in the fun next time. I can’t believe a year has gone by.

Red and Black Week

I don’t run a goth blog, but I do appreciate the goth aesthetic and I look for opportunities to stretch my dark wings now and then. I love that in the month of June, when so many people are donning pastels and getting tans, I have an excuse to stay pale and wear dark clothes.

plaid skirt

Cowl-neck tank: Swapped
Cardigan: Thrifted
Skirt: Goodwill
Boots: John Fluevog

I’m starting off with a vintage maxi skirt I found at Goodwill. I was looking for something to use for a DIY project. I wanted to ruche and drape until I created a fitted, more structured skirt.

black and red

If you try this, make sure you start with a skirt much wider and longer than you need. Each time you pinch and gather, you’ll be “losing” fabric. I tried this on, picked up a piece of fabric in my fingers, placed it to where I wanted it to be, and hand-stitched it in place. I did it on the front only, to create an asymmetrical, fishtail effect. I topped it off with one red button.

draping detail


Filed under Crafts, DIY, Fashion, Thrifty