What Are They Wearing Wednesday: Upcycled and Awesome

Today’s What Are They Wearing post is a little different — it’s not what’s on my mannequins, but what’s on my shop floor:

This beauty is the creation of my husband.  It’s huge — 4 feet by 5 feet — but its utility is far outweighed by the sheer awesomeness of the chartreuse green paint we picked out.


What started as an old hand-me-down table, missing its leaf, and obviously a mistake of short-lived 1970’s trendy interior design, is now a cutting table and ironing surface.  Inside a matching chartreuse metal tin is my too-hot applique iron, my too-convenient portable heat shield pad, and my too-fun pair of electric scissors.  The self-healing cutting surface is not quite 4 feet wide, so the remaining tabletop is covered with another mistake — this time mine — a 12″x60″ piece of fabric printed by Spoonflower with my shop logo and website address, which was supposed to be used to make garment tags, but the logos ended up being much, much too large.

In his usual way, he finished it with matching chartreuse molding (see?  I’m not the only perfectionist in the house).  It looks much better than it ever did as a dining room table, a true achievement for any upcycle project.

Why chartreuse, when I could have chosen from thousands of colors (see my post on color obsession here)?  Because in my former life I worked for a huge advertising firm, where I learned quite a bit about branding (between laying off people in waves…1992 in an advertising HR department was one of the worst places to be); so all our marketing/business materials and nearly everything in the shop is natural wood/burlap, shiny metallic black and chartreuse, and what doesn’t already fit into this little box will — as soon as I can afford to convert it.  But in the meantime, my chunky chartreuse cutting table will keep me happy for a very, very long time.

Guilty Pleasure to CEO

Four months ago, at the constant urging of my husband, I quit a job that was making me angry and resentful and began working instead on trying to dismiss the guilt I’ve always felt for wanting to do something that a) doesn’t require the multiple college degrees I hold, and b) doesn’t feel like a job because of its sheer awesomeness.

For years I’ve designed and sewn skating and dance outfits as a…wait for the dirty word…hobby.  But in September 2013, I realized that working in a place where mediocrity is rewarded and you get paid the same whether you are fabulous or absolutely disgustingly lazy and incompetent, was making me nuts; so I knew something had to change.  My husband was sick of my complaining, my not sleeping because my sewing was relegated to the wee hours of the morning, and stepping on all the straight pins I inevitably dropped on the dining room floor; so he knew something had to change, too.

So we did it.  In one whirlwind month, we turned half of our very large garage into a bona fide shop.  A little creativity and reuse of excess furniture,  a marathon day of filing business and licensing paperwork all over the county, a slightly creepy but nonetheless amusing exploration of a nearby warehouse where old store mannequins and retail accoutrements go to die, and several trips to IKEA later, and this is what I have:


The back corner of my little shop, complete with crystal chandelier and a place for my daughter to nap…uh…do her homework…

On the left you can see Marie, as in Marie Antoinette, our headless mannequin with magnetic arms that is a perfect Firefly Fabrics stock size Adult Small, and our yet-to-be-named adjustable child size dressform. You can’t see Buttsy, our waist-to-thigh child butt mannequin for skirt adjustments, and Peg, our oldest but dearest ladies’ dressform, so named because of the peg stand that sticks out of her nether regions (yes, I did let the kids name them, obviously).

Behind the camera is the sewing area, with my two machines and my daughter’s Christmas gift (her first sewing machine), my huge cutting table, the shelves that will eventually hold about eighty full bolts of fabric but now just house thirty or so two-yard sample pieces and three circular racks full of dozens of bags of rhinestones, and a seriously sick amount of color coded, separated and organized scraps of spandex and other stretch fabric, for when I only need 1/4 yard or so of “something green but not too green” or “six shades of sparkly blue — you can do that, can’t you?” Someday I’ll post those photos too, but hey, right now it’s all about the crystal chandelier.