Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category


DIY Dyeing Feature in Lucky Magazine

In DIY,Dyeing,Lucky Magazine on January 9, 2011 by Naoko Takano

Unlike the New York Times, who doesn’t seem to understand what DIY actually is, Lucky Magazine gets it.  They really get it!  I was simply floored by their feature on dyeing pieces in your wardrobe to give them new life, featured in their February 2011 issue.

Utilizing Rit Fabric Dye, Jacquard dye, and Tarrago leather dye, you too can make over a number of items in your closet and dye them to suit your needs.  (“The $2 Trick that Will Change Your Wardrobe!” reads the title.)

 Though yes, dye is cheap, the prep and process time for dyeing something can be a few hours to a few days, so it’s not cheap time-investment-wise.  But as the article points out, you can achieve dramatic results if you put in the effort to dye something correctly and carefully.

However, most of the pieces in the article appear to be new, which is why the dyeing works so darn well…when you’re dealing with items that have wear, stains, detergents, or distressing on them, your results may be very different.  Dyeing something is never a guaranteed process…it’s fairly hit and miss (which is what many people love about it!).  Don’t start off with trying to dye your favorite dress in the whole wide world…start smaller, and don’t forget the steps necessary to prep the piece to take the dye.

Dyeing leather is absolutely fantastic and utterly addicting, though again, some leathers will or won’t react with the dye, depending on finishing, tanning method, wear, surface coats, etc.  Also: I couldn’t find the leather dye kit the magazine recommends buying from – they only sell Tarrago-brand leather polish, which is not the same as dye.   I’d recommend Angelus-brand leather dye, as I’ve worked with that before and it is extremely high-quality.  If you’d prefer the Tarrago-brand, you can buy it here on a different site…or even buy the kit on Ebay.

They even put together a little video as a quick how-to for the dyeing process for cotton/silk/synthetic fabrics – where Fashion News Director Jen Ford dyes a Barbara Bui dress:

Their other video for how to dye leather isn’t up yet.

I’m so thrilled to see a mainstream mag really try to break the process of dyeing down and inspire people to try it out! 

How about you guys?  Are you thinking of dyeing a couple pieces in your wardrobe to liven things up a little?


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DIY in 5: Cage Cuff

In DIY,DIY in 5,Jewelry on January 6, 2011 by Naoko Takano

Yesterday I mentioned it as a more realistic alternative project to the New York Times‘ labor-intensive 3-hour DIY (!), so today I’m going to show you how to make it. It’s DIY in 5minutes, that is. The easiest, quickest ways to take a piece from blah to fab and update it to current trends.

Wherever I go I’m always on the lookout for clothing, accessory, or jewelry components that can be used in quick ‘n’ simple DIYs. That’s why these silver cuffs I spotted in the jewelry-making section at Jo-Ann Fabrics, from the brand-new Dazzling Geodes line of findings (from Plaid Enterprises) caught my eye. (Technically they’re supposed to be used as a base for adding geode slices and embellishments.) And incidentally, like most of the fashion- and culinary-obsessed, I am a frequent visitor to and the Dazzling Geodes cuffs reminded me a lot of the arm-cuffs she sells in her web-store.

A Luxirare Cuff.

$95 for one of these cuffs is pretty reasonable considering she designed these and has these custom-cast with embossed LUXIRARE logo, and they look pretty hefty and durable…but if you’re in the market for something similar you can use 2 of these affordable findings to make your own version.

You Need:
*2 silver cuffs from the Dazzling Geodes line (available at Jo-Ann Fabrics & Crafts stores)
*silver-colored dead-soft jewelry wire
*wire cutters/pliers

1. Cut 2 short pieces of wire.
If your wire is kinked at all, close the pliers on it and drag in order to straighten it.
2. Line the cuffs up side-by-side and wrap a wire piece around the outer edges where the two cuffs meet.

3. Weave the wire around the edges (I made a “V” shape as I wrapped), trim the ends down, and use the pliers to push the sharp ends back out towards the outside of the cuff so they won’t scratch you.

3. Cut a longer piece of wire and secure the center of where the cuffs meet. Twist the ends around each other on the inside, pull ends towards the outside and trim appropriately.

You’re done! And it may have taken you all of 10 minutes.;-)

Wear with minimalist clothing, sharp contrasts, and architectural details…and stay cool, calm, and cagey with this on your wrist.

Happy DIY’ing!


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Taking Stock: DIY’s of 2010

In Accessories,DIY,How-To,Jewelry,Men's Shirts,Of House and Home,Recipes,Remake,Shoes on January 1, 2011 by Naoko Takano

Now with almost midnight and 2011, while catching up on Gossip Girl episodes and eating peppermint ice cream, I just wanted to take a look back at 2010 and all the DIY tutorials I’ve shared here (and elsewhere).  Missed any?  Here they are, one more time:

Hair Accessories
Jennifer Behr Spike Turban
Givenchy Spiked Headband
Wired Scarf Rabbit Ears Headband from a Handkerchief
Flowered Hair Clip
Tube Flower Headband
Bra Strap Headband
Scarf Turban
Faux Fur Wrap
Knotted Cord Belt
Alexander Wang Zipper Sunglasses
Fur-Covered Basket
Laptop Sleeve from Leather Jacket
Chanel-Style Paper Bag
Feathered Cape
Edwardian Cuffs
Fringed Boho Bag
Lacy Convertible Belt
Rolled Tights Rose
Pierced Flower Brooch
Patterned Clutch Makeover
Fabric Leopard Scarf
Curtain Rings to Boho Bangles
Double-Fringed Necklace
Leaf Chain Earrings
Ruffle Studded Necklace
Woven Heart Shape Pin
Feather Bangles
Jeweled Cardigan Clip
White Embellished U Necklace
Spiked Crystal Ring
Black Embellished Bib Necklace
Rope Necklace
Square-Studded Cardigan
Pillowcase to Elastic Band Skirt
Michael Kors Slashed Top
Petal-Front Top
Butterfly-Embellished Tanktop
Zipper-Detail Alexander Wang Skirt
Faux Fur-Lined Hood
Hybrid Sweater
Too-Big Skirt into Paperbag Waist Skirt
Men’s Clothing Remakes
Summer Tank Dress
Button-Embellished Top
Ruffled Top from a Men’s Shirt
Men’s Shirt to Bow Tunic Dress
Men’s Shirt to Jumpsuit Romper 
Re-fit a Button-Down Shirt
Chain & Bead Halter Dress
Fitted Shirt
Happy Ice Cream Applique T-Shirt
Boot-Covers from a Leather Jacket
Flowered Ballet Flats
Ann Demeulemeester Lace-Up Boots
Corsage Shoe Clips
Fringed Gladiator Sandals
Home Decor
$4 Easter Wreath
$4 Fall Wreath
Super-Easy $7 Holiday Wreeath
Super-Easy $5 Holiday Wreath
Coconut-Banana Crunch Muffins
Low-Sugar Berry Cherry Pie
Low-Fat Baked Donuts
Healthy Like-A-Cheesecake 

Wow, it’s a lot when you look at them all like that! 63 tutorials and how-tos (and I only did 51 in 2009).  I hope this last year has been a wonderful, amazing year for everyone, filled with happiness and DIY!

Here’s hoping that 2011 is even better!

Happy New Year to all my wonderful readers, friends, fellow bloggers, and family!


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DIY: Super-Easy $5 Holiday Wreath (from Present Bows)

In Christmas,DIY,Holidays,Of House and Home on December 25, 2010 by Naoko Takano

Have a couple bows left over after the wrapping-extravaganza?  Have a whole bunch ripped off of presents in the aftermath?  Craft a smaller, point-ier wreath as a counterpoint to a larger piece…as your final Christmas handmade project.  I got all my materials at the Dollar Tree, so it only cost me $5 to make – but it’s also a great way to recycle those bows from presents if you don’t want to re-use them next year.  Here’s how:

You Need:

*2 packages of small stick-on pointed bows
*one larger stick-on bow
*1 small wreath base (styrofoam)
*red ribbon

*glue gun & gluesticks


1. Cut a length of ribbon long enough to hang the wreath.  Wrap it around the top of the wreath base and secure with glue.

2. Glue the small present bows onto the base, filling the base up completely and staggering them to cover any gaps.

3. Glue the largest bow top center onto the red ribbon.

4. Tie the ribbon to a wreath-hanger or hook to display.

 DIY Tutorial for my Super-Easy $8 Holiday Wreath (the larger wreath, pictured above) is here.

Happy DIY’ing…and Merry Christmas!  Hope it is wonderful!


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Articles Question and Answer Marathon Part 3: DIY

In DIY, answers,How-To on December 24, 2010 by Naoko Takano

Michael Antonio Women's Gunner Wedge Sandal,Black,8.5 M US
Michael Antonia Gunner Wedge,

Hi! I just stumbled on your blog a few months and I really dig it. I’ve been “diy’ing” my own stuff years, but shoes always get me! Is there any way that you know of to turn a pair of regular heels into platform wedge heels? Or is that for the pro’s only?

Short answer: Sure you can do it yourself, but if you don’t have a lot of time & money for this, aren’t willing to possibly sacrifice your shoes during the learning curve, or are super-picky about the finished product looking like you bought it in a store (and wasn’t cobbled together in your living room), leave it to the pros.

Long answer: If you’re up to the challenge, or want to do this on a regular basis, then go for it.  To turn a pair of regular heels into platform wedges is a three-step process: removing the old heels, building the wedge and platform, and then shaping and finishing the wedge and platform.

Step 1: Rip off the heels on your original shoes.  This is usually accomplished by a lot of pushing and pulling, angling a screwdriver in-between the heel and the sole, and prying the heel off (assuming your heels are nailed on and not glued).  If they have been glued on (which sometimes heels are; and sometimes they are both glued AND nailed), you can pry them off using force (have fun;-) or utilize Barge Cement Thinner to dissolve the shoemaker’s glue, which will make the task a little easier.  I’d recommend testing the thinner in an area of the shoe where it won’t be too obvious before spreading it into the heel seams – some solvents can discolor or melt components, and you don’t want to ruin any visible parts of the shoes by spreading chemicals on them that destroy them, right? 

You may have to also remove the entire soles, depending on the shape of what’s left once you’ve removed the heels.  If the soling leather has not been skivved down too aggressively at the heels (or hasn’t been cut away), then you can leave it in place and build your wedge & platform under the old soles.  (Though your new shoes will look like they’ve just had the wedge + platform glued onto them, which they will be.)  If the sole does not completely cover the heel of your shoes, then you’ll have to remove it entirely, which will collapse the shape of your uppers if you don’t bolster them prior to doing this.  (By putting your lasts in them.  You don’t have lasts?  Uh oh.  You need something that will double for your feet, something hard and heavy that fills out the uppers completely.  Ideas?  Double layers of pantyhose, wrapped in a layer of saran wrap, filled with Plaster of Paris *may* work in a pinch.  Though if plaster gets on your shoes game’s over.)

SO…once you’ve filled out the shoes you’ll need to rip the soles off (again, via dissolving the glue and prizing them off the shoe uppers.)

Step 2: Building the wedges & platform.  For ease of wear and walkability you’ll need to build your wedges out of layers of 1″ foam crepe (also called “cloud foam” – about $36 a sheet at shoemaker’s supply shops) – using a single layer for the platform part of the shoe, and using 2 (or more) smaller pieces in the heel area.  (I’ve seen some how-tos floating around on the internet that advise you making the wedges out of wood – certainly possible, but unless you’re a woodworker I’d recommend going with the foam since it’s softer, more sculptable, and easier to walk on.  But you can always try wood if you enjoy carving it!!)  It’s fun if you enjoy the process, but you do have to be a very exact sculptor when making your wedges – otherwise the finished pieces will become works of art and ultimately unwearable.  Even a 2 mm difference in height or shape to the wedges will throw your balance off and give your back aches.  Once the glue is set up between the layers (secure with long screws), then you need to shave the foam to shape your wedge heels – the curvature on the top has to exactly match the pitch of your original shoes or you will be continually off-balance – and you need to make sure right and left are exactly the same!

Step 3: Attaching the wedge platform & finishing. Use Barge cement to attach the platform wedges. 

Once everything is dry, then trace the wedge bottoms and cut your soles out of soling leather.  Skive the raw edges down.  Glue to the wedge bottom and apply Edge Kote and shoe polish to the sole edges.

And if you’re really lucky, you might find a pair of plastic wedges at a shoemaker’s supply store, that somebody really kind might sell to you.  And if you’re really, really, really lucky, said wedges might actually be in the same shoe size, shape, and heel height as your original shoes.  Then you wouldn’t have to build the wedge from scratch in the foam crepe – which wedges usually aren’t built from (unless they’re single-piece foam sandals)…foam crepe is usually only used for platforms in shoes, and the wedge part is usually a solid plastic piece.

So no, you don’t HAVE to be a professional to convert regular heels to wedge heels, but it’s a very fiddly and time-consuming job, with a large financial investment, and giving results that are not necessarily the same as shoes you’d find on a store shelf.

See Luxirare’s blog for a pair of platform wedges she made entirely from cloud foam to illustrate what I mean.

Good luck!

Miss Me Women's Sid-6 Ankle Boot,Black,7.5 M US 
Miss Me Ankle Boot,

I have a pair of ankle boots that come up to the middle of my shin and I wanted to make them into booties. I looked around online and saw that I should just take them to a shoe repair shop. Can’t I just do it at home?

Sure, if you don’t mind the raw edge on the top that will be left after you cut them down.  (The shoe repair shop *may* be able to re-seal the edge and make it look like the shoes were designed that way in the first place, rather than a pair that looks like you chopped them down.)  It just depends what you can live with or how you can disguise the top edge otherwise.  If they’re manmade leather, you could squeeze a thin strip of vinyl-look puffy paint in a similar color around the cut edge of the boot, so the inside material does not fray.  If they’re leather, they need to be properly burnished, colored, sealed, and stitched for them to look professional.

I want to recreate these Vivienne Westwood shoes in another colorway but I’m not sure how to make the hearts. Any thoughts? I love you blog btw!

Thanks!  Um, do the hearts have to be flexible plastic?  You can try Shrink plastic in black (though it is not flexible once it’s baked) to recreate the shape, thickness, and plastic-y look of these hearts.  (For the warped shape, I’d recommend doing it with your hands the instant you take the pieces out of the oven, while they’re still hot..wear gloves!!)  If you like experimentation, you can also try applying heat (like from a blow dryer or heat-gun) to black plastic from objects that are normally trashed (like take-out containers, plastic molded packaging, or even old vinyl LPs) to see if any shrink and condense into something malleable and similar in look to those hearts.  Then cut out the heart shape, sand the edges, and you might have a good copy.

Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-ShirtGeneration T: Beyond Fashion: 120 New Ways to Transform a T-shirtT-Shirt Makeovers: 20 Transformations for Fabulous Fashions

Can you tell some DIY ideas for cut t-shirts or DIY staple things?

If you’re looking for ideas for what to do with a t-shirt simply by cutting it, I’d highly recommend the Generation T books: Generation T: 108 Ways to Transform a T-Shirt, and Generation T: Beyond Fashion: 120 New Ways to Transform a T-Shirt.  They have projects in them that run the gamut from very basic to more involved, and they have a ton of ideas for cutting up t-shirts.  Also, T-Shirt Makeovers: 20 Transformations for Fabulous Fashions is a little more “fashiony” if that’s what you’re looking for.  As for “DIY staple things” I’m not sure whether you mean basic projects, or must-have tools, or stapled creations (or something else and I’m misunderstanding).  I’m working on a post on a basic DIY toolkit (coming soon) if that’s what you were interested in.

 Victoria’s Secret One-Shouldered Bra-Top Dress

What’s the simplest way to turn an old dress/top into a one shoulder dress/top.

Cut off one of the sleeves?;-)  I’m not sure of the style of your original piece, but I would just put the dress or top on, and looking in the mirror, draw a line in chalk where I wanted to cut.  Then add 3/8″ to the outside of the line you drew, and cut.  Fold the 3/8″ under and sew a 1/4″ seam.  If your piece is made out of knit jersey, you could probably even get away with cutting on the line and not adding any seam allowance.  Or, if you prefer, you could not add the seam allowance and instead zigzag or overcast the raw edge.  But something has to be done about that raw edge unless you want the “I just chopped off one of the arms”-look to your one-shouldered piece, and you should choose the method that fits in with the style of your finished piece best.

Hey Carly, I love your blog! I can’t wait to try the swallow heels and I’ve already tried a few other tutorials. I was wondering- have you ever done a tut on jazzing up a fabric tote bag? The kind you get free from a store, i.e in cream 

Hi HollyMacF!
I’m so sorry it’s taken me awhile to respond.  I feel that there’s so many possibilities for making over a tote bag that the sky’s the limit!  I haven’t shared a tutorial here for doing so, specifically because there are so many options to personalize those natural cotton totes.
You could:

The Non-Self-Important Canvas Tote that I have printed with and sell in my shop on

*get a design printed directly on the bag, like at or
*distress it using a drill, razor blades, and scissors
*add a silk flower and a string of pearls or beads for a ladylike vibe

img source

 *stud it (maybe studs to the bottom like that A. Wang Coco Duffel bag, but with a tongue-in-cheek take on it?)
*wrap chains around each handle
*drip, splatter, and splash paint onto it
*replace the handles with chain handles, rope handles, or sew contrasting fabric onto them
*sew fabric onto the bag, like an applique, cut-out shape, or do fabric patches in a quilting pattern
*make bows out of satin and add them to the bag
*cut the bag and sew it back together in a different shape (like a wedge-shaped tote? or make the sides shorter and the bag into more of a duffel shape?)
*sew faux “quilted” lines over the outside
*glue deco mirror pieces onto the outside (could be painful?!)
*knit large “chain links” around the bag (like a designer bag that I spotted the other day and for the life of me can’t remember what brand it was)
*spray paint stencils
*use stamps and fabric paint to decorate it

Cooperative Trompe L’oeil bag from Urban Outfitters

*take your favorite designer bag and “draw” its details trompe l’oeil style on the tote
*add scraps of lace and cascading pompons for a feminine feel to it
*roughly paint a saying or phrase onto it
*place it inside a net bag

and, my kitschy favorite…
*buy a lot of tiny stuffed bears and cover the entire bag with them!  (I’ve actually seen a bag like this:-)

Everyone else, weigh in with your ideas!  What do you think would be a great way to make over a boring tote?

Ask me anything

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DIY: Hybrid Sweater

In DIY,Remake,Tops on December 22, 2010 by Naoko Takano

After seeing this post on one of my new favorite blogs, A Pair and a Spare, I decided to make my own sweater by combining two that had coordinating colors.  I loved the combination of striped and chunky cable-knit sleeves!

 source: JakandJil

I wore my finished creation for Day 23 in my 30 Days of Outfits Challenge last month.  So here’s how to make your own:



You Need:

*2 sweaters in coordinating colors (I think one of mine is men’s – it honestly doesn’t matter as long as you can fit into both)
*thread matching sweaters

*seam ripper
*sewing machine ( if you do not have a sewing machine, this can also be sewn by hand, though it will take a little longer)
*machine needle (for knits or wovens; it doesn’t matter)


1. Separate the sleeves from each sweater.  You need to find the thread that binds the sleeve to the armscye, and cut it with the seam ripper, opening up the seam a little. 

Then, working from the center of the seam, try to pull the thread from in-between the sleeve and the armscye.  If you get it just at the right area where the thread end is in-between the two (it’s a little tricky), you can pull the thread and the whole seam will come apart – zzzzzpth!! (*that’s my sleeve-coming-apart sound effect*).  It’s a lot easier than going all the way around the seam on the outside, picking and ripping each stitch as you go.

2. Pin the sleeves from one sweater to the armscyes of the other sweater, matching the side seams, and easing any fullness (sweaters are stretchy, so easing is…well, easy!).  Pin from the inside, with sleeve inside the body of the sweater, right sides together.

3. Stitch on your machine around the armscyes, using a shorter stitch.  If you like, going over the edges again with a zigzag stitch or overcast stitch will add extra strength.

 If you’ve sewn close to the edges, the new seam will be virtually indistinguishable from the outside.

4. Wear and enjoy!  Don’t forget to dry flat whenever you wash your piece – you don’t want undue stress on the arm seams ripping your new arms off!  (although that visual makes me a little squeamish…;-)

Happy DIY’ing!


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DIY: Jeweled Cardigan Clip (StyleSample Magazine Feature

In Accessories,DIY,Featured in... on December 13, 2010 by Naoko Takano

My tutorial for this sparkly, holiday-style jeweled DIY cardigan clip was featured in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue of Style Sample Magazine (see pg. 20!).  It’s super-easy to make – with just a glue gun, some sparkly buttons, and some trim scraps you too can make one in no time.

As the holidays approach, we’re all looking for that perfect accessory to elevate a blah outfit into FABulous; office-wear into party attire; the everyday into elegant.  And what better than a functional closure to your sweater (or jacket, or scarf) that can double as a statement brooch? Clip it on, bling it out – however you wear it, it’s sure to be the focal point of any outfit!

*stiff felt, cut into 2 circles (each about 1.5″ diameter)
*scrap of lacy ribbon
*assorted jeweled buttons
*2 shoe clips
*short length of chain (about 3″)
*Optional: 2 jump rings
*Optional: 2 brooch pinbacks

*glue gun & gluesticks
*needle &thread

1. Start by stitching the lace around the edge of each felt piece, in a spiral.  (Although you can use the hot glue for this, the stitches look neater.)

2. Hot-glue the buttons on top of the lace.

3. Turn each felt piece over, and hot-glue a shoe clip onto its back.  Keep in mind that in order to wear at the front of a jacket or cardigan, each clip has to open outwards, so make sure they face the right way before you glue them down.

4. Add the chain to the bottom of the felt pieces.  I attached it using jump rings, but if you like you can just use hot glue to affix it, hiding the ends underneath the lace.

5. Optional: If you’d like to wear this piece as a brooch, also glue a pinback to the back of each felt piece.

You can try a number of configurations, using ribbons, soutache braid, fancy trims, different chains, studs, vintage findings, or even stick-on jewels (form the scrapbooking section of the craft store!)  The sky’s the limit!

And make sure the very next time you rock it out – you tell everyone that you didn’t buy it…you DIY’d it!

I love how it looks like a little smiley face!  (Once you see can’t UNsee it!:-/)

And if you’re interested in the other features in this issue (like an interview with Project Runway Season 6 finalist Althea Harper and the how-to on making your own badge for your blog)…

Read the full issue online here

Thanks so much to Tamia and the team at Style Sample! I truly appreciate the inclusion and am honored to be a part of this great publication. 

[And since they are the only magazine currently dedicated to bloggers and the art of style blogging, please help support this great publication by reading, contributing, or even purchasing the print version online. Thanks so much!]


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