Wednesday, May 23, 2018

DIY Staining Kitchen Cabinets

Staining Kitchen Cabinets

This tutorial is how I DIY stained all the dated golden oak cabinets in my entire house (and later my new house) without spending hours stripping the wood first with harsh chemicals and without adding layer after layer of stain to get them this dark walnut.

I didn't want to just paint the kitchen cabinets as the realtor suggested, and we couldn't afford to make a lot of expensive updates (hence keeping the dated backsplash and baby blue Formica countertops!). Gel staining the cabinets (and a few other changes - mostly painting) allowed us to add $25K to the sale price of our house for less than $200!  

I found this great DIY tutorial for staining a bathroom vanity a dark color without stripping the stain first. 

I've included her instructions here and added my own comments and changes in red and my updated comments in green (after I completed a few more projects and learned a few tricks!). Another good tutorial if you prefer video.


  •  Varathane gel stain (by Rustoleum) in the color Dark Walnut
     I had to special order this because my hardware store only had it available online. I needed ~4 quarts to do the whole kitchen (about 50 cabinets and drawers - my smaller kitchen required less than 2 quarts). 
  • Deft Satin Clear Wood Finish – spray
     This would take way too many cans for my project, so I used:
  • Minwax satin finish polyurethane (poly} – 1 gallon 
  • 2-4 stir sticks for stirring the gel stain and poly these are usually free in the paint department.
  • Felt pads
    I cut my own from 1” Heavy-Duty Felt Pads, Self-Adhesive – designed for keeping furniture from scratching floors that I got at the dollar store.
  • 150 grit sand paper
    I used 100 grit cause I’m lazy like that. 
  • Paper bag
    (which is the cheap equivalent to 220 grit sand paper) to lightly sand the poly. 
  • Drawer pulls and handles (50!) 
  • TONS of blue painter’s tape 
  • Black sharpie
  • ~75 Sandwich bags (fold-down top not Ziploc) 
  • 1” soft brush* (for stain) 
  • 2” soft brush* (for poly) 
  • Rubber gloves 
  • Paint clothes** -
    - a long “paint shirt” to protect your hands and clothes. ** 
  • Damp cloth or paper towels to wipe up any drips that land where they shouldn’t 
  • Plastic tarp
    (that dry cleaning thin plastic stuff won’t work, you need something a little heavier that won't stick to your cabinets).
* If you purchase cheap brushes then you can just throw them away when you’re done! No cleanup! But do get ones that are soft for the poly it will go on much smoother
** I didn’t actually use the rubber gloves, because I don’t care about getting stain on my hands – it does wash off. Plus, when I let the stain dry on the rubberI loved the paint clothes though – I can’t tell you how many times I brushed up against a cabinet or dripped stain or poly on myself.


  1. Purchase and drill holes for new hardware. If like me, you’re adding or changing the hardware, I suggest adding the holes for the new hardware BEFORE you do all the stain work. That way, if you mess up you can patch it/ fix it fairly easily. I’d planned to add hardware, but at the thought of messing up my pretty new cabinets and drawers (C&D), I changed my mind.
    If you are attaching new hardware, make your life easier and build a jig from some scrap wood. It takes only a couple minutes to put together and ensures each hole is drilled in the exact same spot on every door. If you don't feel like putting a jig together, you can buy a plastic guide here.

    I recommend D. Lawless Hardware! If you are looking for cabinet hardware, you have got to check them out. Honestly, the best prices and best customer service!
  2. Remove drawer faces and cabinet doors. I have seen people stain them in place, but don't do it. It takes like 5 minutes to unscrew the old doors. Let’s do it the right way people.

    Before removal, I used a piece of painter’s tape to number each cabinet and drawer face(C&D). I then took a picture of the labeled C&D so I knew where they went. When I sanded, I just moved the taped number to the side I was not working on. When I stained (Tetris style!) I put the number on the plastic sheet under the C&D.

    On my next project, I got smarter. I still used a piece of painter's tape to write the C&D's # but I stuck it unobtrusively inside the C or D and left it there until the C or D was done and put back in place. When I took the hinges off a C door, I put them in plastic baggies and used a black sharpie to write the C # on the baggie (so the hinges and screws didn’t get all mixed together).

    Using the sharpie, I wrote the C # on the C's door in the space under the hinges. This spot isn't painted or stained, so wouldn't be sanded or stained - meaning the # will stay visible (rather than having to move a piece of painter's tape multiple times). The number won't show when the hinges are on. (When I stained the C door I had to try to keep the stain from covering the number (sometimes I forgot and it was "fun" trying to put in the right place. Next time I will probably protect the number with a piece of painter's tape over it).

    For drawers, I wrote the D's # on the backside of the D’s face where it doesn't get stained. 

    If like me, you’re going to be doing a large number of cabinets (50! C&D), you might think about doing them in sections and only remove the doors and drawer faces for that one section. I didn’t have enough workspace to do all the C&D at once, so I did as many as I could fit on my workspace (about ½). I just happened to do all the drawers and smaller cabinets in the first “batch.” Since I had removed ALL the doors and drawer faces, my kitchen looked awful for weeks.

    I didn’t work on the cabinet boxes/ bases right away either so some of the finished doors and faces that were done had nowhere to go. If I had to do it all again, I would probably work on one group of cabinets and leave the other group alone until I was ready to do them (ex. left wall of cabinets and the island, then the back and right wall of cabinets, then upper cabinets). I would do the cabinet boxes/bases first.

    If you’re going to add hardware (Step 9), I would probably drill the holes NOW before you remove the C&Ds. That way if anything goes wrong you can patch/fix it. I'd also put the hardware in the same bag as the hinges.
  3. Sand lightly, especially if your cabinets are on the newer sideIt shouldn't take very long. You aren't looking to remove the finish, just give it some "tooth". I used 150 grit. Make sure to use a damp rag or tack cloth to wipe them clean after.

    I used 100 grit and removed all the shiny poly as completely as I could.

    After sanding, I covered a work space with a tarp and laid out the C&D “Tetris style.” (I used the pool table which was a comfortable height to work on and not putting it on the floor meant I didn’t have to worry about the cat walking on it. A dining room table or counter top might be ok but moving it if you wanted to use the space would be a pain).
    Plywood or an old door on sawhorses works fine too. I used them out in the garage which helped a lot with fumes.}
    I used heavy plastic tarps (the super thin plastic tarps that look like dry cleaning bags wrinkled up and stuck to my C&D – so use something heavier). I took the painter’s tapes labeled with the C&D number and taped it to the tarp underneath the C&D it belonged to.

    Make sure you set up in an area where you can open windows or something to vent the fumes!
  4.  Stir Gel Stain well. Once your wood is prepped, time to start staining. One mistake I see people do is to not stir their stain. Gel stain is super thick! Like pudding. Although the pigment in gel stain doesn't separate as quickly as traditional stain, it is still a good idea to stir it well before use. 

  5. Cover hand and glove in thick sock. As for application, I'll admit, I totally stole this idea. Once again, being a rebel, I tried applying the stain with a high quality brush but still had terrible brush strokes. I finally caved and went with the crowd and used a thick sock over a gloved hand. It really worked great to get a smooth, even application.
    This totally didn’t work for me. I couldn’t get it in the corners and it left blotchy spots where I couldn’t get it to smooth in the corners. Plus, by the second day, the stain had broken down the rubber in my rubber gloves! I ended up with stain all over my fingers anyway. The stain I chose was dark and I did multiple layers, so paint brush marks didn’t show anyway (although you should definitely always go with the grain of the wood).
    I used a small 1 inch brush and made smooth strokes with the wood grain. I discovered that I liked the “streaks” left by where the brush strokes overlapped a little. They didn’t really show up by the time I hit the 3rd coat, but it kept the wood grain look.

    NOTE: Since this is obviously a long process, rather than throw away or clean the brushes and rollers every time, I put them in a plastic baggie (getting out as much of the air as possible) or wrapped them in Saran Wrap and then kept them in the fridge.

  6.   Wipe stain with the grain, with long strokes. For an authentic, stained wood look, make sure to wipe with the grain of the wood and be mindful of intersections. Keep the coats even but thin. Warning, the first coat will look like crap. At this point you will totally be second guessing yourself and possibly cursing my name. It will get better, I promise.

    VERY IMPORTANT! Let each coat dry for at least 12 hours. Seriously. I don't care if the can says you "can re-coat in 2 hours". Don't do it.

    Each coat gets better and better. It took me 3 coats till the color looked even and natural.
    I applied the stain with little strokes (with the grain) to evenly distribute the stain, then, while it was still wet, I did long, smooth strokes with the grain down the whole segment of wood. I feathered the edges when I couldn’t get it in one long stroke.

    Some of these cabinets are super long and “feathering” the brush strokes was difficult. One technique I liked was using the brush to “glob on” the stain along the corners/ edges, then putting horizontal lines of globed on stain about every 6”. That way I could stroke the stain from top to bottom (with the grain) without having to stop and reload my brush. Wish I’d taken a picture!

    After the stain had dried about 6 hours, I flipped the cabinet/ drawers over and stained the other side. Waited 6 hours, then flipped again and stained the other side. This meant each side still had 12 full hours to dry, but it took ½ the time to stain my 50! C&D.

  7. Tape and mask off area around cabinet boxes. If you want professional results, you are going to want to spray your sealant (I'll explain more in a minute). Take the doors to the (open) garage to spray, but the vanity will have to get sprayed in place. Yes, you can spray inside your house. Actually, that's how the pros do it. You can pick up plastic drop cloths at Home Depot for dirt cheap. Cover anything you don't want sprayed and make sure to have as much ventilation as possible!
    I really should have made sure I had much better ventilation than I did! I got a little loopy!

    C&D: I learned the hard way that poly likes to drip to the other side of the C&D you’re working on, leaving drips and patches of mess. I started using Blue Painter’s tape to cover the “back side” of the work. That way if/when it dripped, it came off when I peeled off the tape. Although it used a lot of tape, it saved me HOURS of resanding, restaining and repolying…

    Rather than mess with a ton of plastic tarps/ sheeting that was going to get stepped on and torn, I used strips of blue painter’s tape where the cabinet boxes met the floor and/or walls. It takes at least 72 hours to do 3 coats of stain and 1 coat of poly on the base cabinets and that's a long time to have tarps to mess around with.

    I did about 3 rows of the painter’s tape on the floor. One right at the edge where the cabinet kick plate met the floor, and then another butted up against that one, and another butted up to that one. When done, the tape extended out a little farther than the edge of the cabinet (about 6”). That way when it dripped, the stain landed on the tape, not my floor.

    I also put one line of tape inside the cabinet box (where the wood I wanted to stain met the cabinet box, which I didn’t want to stain). This meant I could apply the stain easily around the edges of the wood trim. If I’d cared about the underside of my countertop, I would have done the same thing there.

    Moving out the dishwasher, vent hood, and stove wasn’t really an option, so to protect them, I taped them up as best I could, and stained as far back as I could reach. When someone replaces these items, they’ll know the cabinets weren’t originally this color, but I don’t care!

  8. Spray vanity and doors with 3-4 coats of satin lacquer. If you read other tutorials, they will all tell you to use a water-based, wipe on top coat. Here's my thoughts: This is a bathroom. These cabinets will be frequently exposed to water. Water-based sealants aren't durable to long term water exposure.

    Once I decided to refinish my cabinets, I decided to make them look and feel as professional as possible. I started watching dozens of YouTube videos and reading on cabinet maker forums. One thing was universal. Professionals use lacquer to seal cabinets for a variety of reasons. #1- Its dries fast! You can re-coat, without sanding, in 30 minutes. #2- It dries hard as a rock, unlike poly products which are essentially flexible plastic. And #3- It is VERY durable. Once fully cured, a lacquered surface should withstand years of heavy use. I know, DIYers are usually scared of lacquer.

    The good news is, I found a clear lacquer in a spray can! I have a couple of paint guns, but I try to avoid running anything but water-based products through them, since I hate the cleanup. Home Depot carries a product by Deft (owned by Minwax) that is perfect! It goes on super even, and gives professional looking results. I sprayed 3 coats on the vanity as well as both
    sides of the doors and ended up using 6 cans. Here is a link to buy it online.

    This just wasn’t an option for me. It took her 6 cans to do a bathroom vanity. I was doing an entire kitchen. Waaayyy too many cans.

    I didn’t spray anything! I used a brush to put on the Poly and I didn’t notice any paint brush marks or anything (although I did have to watch for drips. On cabinet boxes, I suggest going back about 5 minutes later. You'll be surprised how often there will be some drips that show up.

    I used a 2” brush and regular satin polyurethane. Most of the time it only took one coat. 
    FYI, use a soft brush (one intended for poly is awesome and might be worth paying a little more). Also, you might want to do 2 coats of poly around the sink cabinet box and doors and drawer faces.}

    TIP: STIR THE POLY!!  Don’t forget to thoroughly STIR THE POLY! I kind of swished it around a little instead of doing a good job EVERY TIME I used it. The result was a too glossy finish at the beginning and toward the end, almost completely matte.

    After I polyed I used a piece of paper bag and lightly “sanded” the finished coat. It took down any slightly rough patches and reminded me to check every surface to make sure it was smooth and even). If it didn’t look perfect, then I fixed it (removed the hair or drip or whatever) and just added another coat of poly.

    Cabinet Boxes: When polying the sides of the cabinet boxes, I used a similar technique to that mentioned for the stain (horizontal stripes of globbed on poly about every 6 inches so I could smoothly run the brush from top to bottom without having to stop and reload my brush). Watch for drips (especially at the top).

    TIP: Remove the tape while the poly is still wet. Otherwise when you pull up the tape it might take pieces of the poly drip and the stain with it.

  9. Add felt or rubber pads. After allowing the lacquer to dry over-night, one more step I highly recommend is using felt or rubber pads on the corners of the drawer and cabinet faces. These little guys are easy to find, cheap, and help your cabinets function better. The small space they provide between the doors and frames keep the fresh stain and lacquer from sticking to itself. They are also a must for painted cabinets! Here's a link to buy them online 

    I needed so many of these that the cost really added up (2 for every C&D – 3 for especially long C doors). I found some thick felt pads, at the Dollar Store! (originally for keeping furniture legs from scratching the floor), and cut them up. I quartered the one inch circles and trimmed them in to a rough circle the size of those expensive little pads. A couple of sets of 16 1” pads was way more than I needed to do all the C&D.
    Bonus: The thicker pads made the C&D stick out a little more. Since we decided not to add hardware, this made it a little easier to grip the edge of C&D to open them.

  10.       Install C&D. It’s much easier to add hardware and hinges on each C&D BEFORE putting them back on the cabinet boxes.

Master Bath Before

 Master Bath After:

Guest Bath After:

1970s Kitchen Before

1970s Kitchen With Drop Ceiling Removed and New Cabinets Planned

1970s Kitchen with Cabinets Done (We were actually building cabinets, so the process took so long that I misplaced one set of hinges. Can you tell which C? They showed up later.)

1970s Kitchen with Wall Removed, Peninsula Added, Granite and Backsplash - DONE!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wearing the right size bra?!

I can't tell you how many fittings I've done where the person was wearing the wrong size bra, or even thought that they didn't need one!

A properly fitting bra makes your clothes fit better, and can even make you look thinner!

80% of women are wearing the wrong sized bra!

Cup Size
People with small ribs tend to assume they are As or Bs (because that's often that's all that is available in most bra departments).

Your cup size is proportional to your ribs.  

The cup on a 36C might be about the size of an orange, but imagine sticking those oranges on the chest of an 8-year-old. They would look huge! Now take those same oranges and stick them on the chest of a big guy.  You'd probably barely notice them.

Same exact cup volume
28G = 30DDD(F) = 32DD(E) = 34D = 36C = 38B = 40A
Large Male = they become pecs!

Heads Up!
Many stores will fit you in the size they carry. Meaning if based on your rib and bust measurements, you should be wearing a 28G, and the store doesn't carry that (most don't!), then they might put you in the next size up that they carry. Most likely they don't carry a 30F and they might not carry a 32DD, either so they'd put you in a 34D. Which means the cup size will fit, but the band will be too loose to be supportive!

Measuring for the Right Size Bra

  1. Band Size
    Measure around your rib cage, just under your breasts where your bra band will go. This is your band size. Round this number up or down to the nearest even number.
    Ex. 33.5" = 34 or 32.75" = 32
    It's always better to round down if your band width is not within a half inch of the next size up, because your bra will stretch over time. You can wear it on the loosest hooks when you purchase it and tighten it as it stretches out.
  2. Bust Size
    Measure around the fullest part of your bust. Subtract your band size from this number. The difference between the 2 numbers is your cup size.
    Ex. Bust = 38" Band size =34
    38 minus 34 = 4" cup size
  3. Cup Size
    Every inch of cup size equals the letter part of your bra size. 1" = A, 2" = B, 3" = C, 4" = D.
    Unfortunately, this is where it gets a little confusing.
    Different brands tend to use different letters for the same cup size.
    5" can equal E or DD
    6" can equal F or DDD (some companies even call this EE)
    7" can equal FF or DDDD or G
    8" can equal GG or H
    9" usually equals HH because most companies don't want to use I as it can be confused with the number 1.
    10" and up tend to use whatever letter they correspond with 10=J, 11=K, 12=L, 13=M, 14=N...
  4. Bra Size!
    Add your band size to your cup letter and Voila! You have your correct bra size.
    Ex. 32DD, 40D, 38GG...

You know your size, now what?

Just like jeans (my nemesis!), every brand and style fits differently.
 Some run small, some run big, some have stands or underwires that are high under the armpit, on some the gore and/or cups are super high and will show under lower cut tops. 

How to tell if a bra fits: 

  1. A snug band: The band is what should do the majority of the work supporting your breasts, not the straps. You should be able to put one or two fingers under the band, but no more. (This will probably feel snugger than you are used to because you are used to wearing the wrong size bra!)
    If your band is pulled away from your body underneath your breasts, this means your cups are probably too small.
  2. Sufficient side coverage:
    The bra cup should hold all your breast tissue. This means if you're wearing a bra with an underwire, the end of it should be pointing toward the middle of your armpit. You also shouldn't have any breast tissue coming out from the sides of the cups.
  3. A flat gore:
    The gore (the part of the bra band that's between the cups) should sit flat against your chest, without digging into your skin uncomfortably. If it doesn't, your bra cups are probably too small.
  4. A smooth curve:
    Avoid the dreaded "quad-boob" that results from the top of a too-small cup cutting into breast tissue above the bra. Instead, look for a fit that results in a clean silhouette with no stray tissue. (WikiHow To Measure Your Bra Size)
  5. Size and Shape:
    Breasts are usually slightly different sizes. If one breast is significantly larger than the other, then I recommend finding a bra that fits the larger breast and adding a small amount of padding to the bra cup (at the bottom of the cup).
  6. Secure Bra Straps:
    If your band is the right size then your bra straps shouldn't be constantly sliding off your shoulders. This can be a big problem for those women with narrower frames wearing a band that is too big. The straps will be spaced further out on the band than they should be and therefore will be closer to the ball joint of your shoulder rather than the natural curve between the shoulder joint and neck - which means the straps will constantly slip over the shoulder joint and down the arm.

    If your bra fits well then the band is supporting most of the weight of your breasts instead of your shoulder straps. This means that your bra shouldn't be cutting grooves into your shoulder! 

Different types/ styles of bras:

  • Unlined - offer structure but are lightweight because they have no heavy padding.
  • Demi Cup - only covers about half the breast. This allows for low cut tops.
    Demi Bra
  • Balconette - similar to the Demi cup bra, but usually covers less of the breast. The straps are closer to the outside edge than a standard bra. They also tend to be more femininely embellished.
    Balconette Bra
  • Push-Up - has padding on the bottom or the sides of the cups to push up the breasts. The outside of the cups can also be padded to add up to 2 cup sizes.
    Push-up Plunge
  • Plunge - similar to the push-up bra, but with a deep v-neckline in the front. 
  • Full Coverage - for full-figured / busty women - this has more support and a sturdier underwire
    Full Coverage
  • Minimizer - usually worn by full-figured/ busty women who wish to compress the breasts to make them less noticeable and/or clothing fit better.
  • Strapless - relies on the support of the band without needing straps.
    Strapless Pushup
  • Convertible - straps can be reconfigured so that the bra straps can be moved and reattached to work under a halter, racer back, backless, one shoulder.
    Convertible Straps
  • Sports Bra - usually made of stretchy fashion fabric. Designed to compress breasts and keep them from bouncing/ moving during vigorous exercise. Usually extends down the ribs a couple of inches like a longline bra.  Typically does not have adjustable straps or underwire. Can be worn under athletic clothes or by itself. 
    Sports Bra
  • Bralette/ Longline - provides a little more coverage because the bra band extends down the ribs, but usually in a lighter, more flexible fabric. Can be worn under sheer tops and be meant to be visible.
    Longline/ Bralette
  • Longline/ Bustier - usually strapless and extends down to the waist or hips. Often used in bridal wear for dresses that are low-cut and/or backless. Made of sturdier bra-type materials with boning, Usually has hook and eye closures just like a regular bra, but all the way down the front or back. Can be used for slimming the torso, waist, and hips (if extends past the waist).
    Longline/ Bustier waist length and longline
  • Corset - Similar to a bustier, but made of fashion fabric instead of bra-type materials with built-in boning. Usually closed with ribbon through grommets laced down the front or back of the corset. Often tightened in a way that pushes up the breasts and compresses the torso (and waist and hips depending on the length), creating an hourglass shape. Can be worn as an undergarment or over a blouse or dress. 
    Typical Lacing
    • Underbust -fit around and under the bust but not actually supporting the bust (with straps this is usually considered to be a corset, without straps this is usually called a Waist Cinch or Waist Trainer). Can also push-up the breasts by supporting the base of the breasts without covering the breasts.
      Underbust corset - halter straps
    • Overbust - with or without straps
      - Push up the breasts without using a breast cup or molded form by compressing the bottom of the breast and pushing the rest of the breast tissue upward
      Demi cup corset

      - Princess seams - no individual cups, but the fabric is shaped to accommodate the breasts.
      Princess seams with straps
    • - Individual cups

For Those Of Us Who Wear Unusual Sizes

Not only do I have a small rib size and a large cup size (which regular stores don't carry), but I find that most of the time, the underwires on the sides of my bra poke me in the armpit in a lot of bras. Also, I can't always tell how much coverage the bra gives - will it show under low-cut tops? - will someone be able to tell if I'm cold? A lot of times the only way to tell is to just try them on.

Specialty Bra Stores
Every single brand and style fits differently. This is why I prefer to use a specialty bra shop and get fitted by a professional. (Not a store like V.S. where the secret is that their "trained" fitters tend to put you in the closest-to-your-size bra that they have in stock).

Specialty stores usually carry a wide variety of bras to try on to find a good fit and the type of bra that I prefer (coverage, style, brand...).

Tip: Even bras from the same company can fit differently, I often can't find my size (34HH) in the average store, and bras from specialty stores typically cost a lot ($70+), so if I don't need a bra right away, I usually go to a specialty bra store to get fitted by a professional. They bring me different bras to try on for fit. 

When I find a bra that fits well and that I like, then I discretely take pictures of the tags. Often, I can purchase the exact same bra online for significantly less. When I want to buy another one, I usually find them for even less because they are no longer the latest model. 

Buying Online
Every brand and style of bra fits differently. If you are purchasing a bra you haven't already tried on, you should definitely shop somewhere with a flexible return policy.

One option I use a lot is to find a bra that has the right size cups and then have a professional seamstress alter the band size for me. Luckily for me, I happen to be one, but it's not an especially difficult alteration and many of the specialty stores offer alterations as an additional service.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Wonder Woman Costume!

Wonder Woman! Well, if Wonder got older and had 4 kids (with Superman!)  I whipped up this cute costume for a Halloween costume party. I think it turned out great! 
Wonder Woman's Bustier
The red corset top started out as a (failed) project. When the gold satin Wonder Woman symbol was appliqued to the top of the red vinyl corset, it smoothed out some of the rough spots caused by trying to sew stiff vinyl into a curved bra cup and saved the corset!
(Notes: For large busted women, always use an underwire when making a corset. Be aware that vinyl is stiff and darts and seams will look pointy and sharp instead of smooth. Vinyl does not breath at all! You will get hot and sweaty in an unlined corset.)
Wonder Woman's Tiara
This headband is made from the stiff red vinyl cut into a tiara shape held on in the back with a wide non-roll waistband elastic. I cut a small star into a piece of the same gold satin used on the corset and covered the red vinyl tiara. Appliqued around the cut out star to show the red vinyl underneath.

Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth 
This was just some gold drapery cord I had laying around. 

Wonder Woman's Shorts
The more mature Wonder Woman is not about to wear her old swimsuit style undergarment! So this soft blue with white stars satin fabric was made with a simple sleep short pattern. The elastic waistband was covered with a purchased gold belt.
(Note: If you can't find a similar fabric, I have also made a version with white paint stenciled/ stamped onto a blue fabric. You can cut a star shape in a piece of cardboard and dab on the white paint, or cut a sponge into a star shape and stamp the painted sponge star onto your fabric. Be sure to let the paint dry before you move it!)

Wonder Woman's Boots
These iconic boots are a simple boot cover that's worn over whatever shoe you want to wear. I traced one of my own boots as a pattern. Then appliqued on the white stripes.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Life is like a canvas. It begins blank & every day is another brush stroke. Make your life a masterpiece.

Mary Brush's family and friends often refer to her as a "Renaissance Woman" and it's not too difficult to figure out why. She is passionate about a variety of things, including working with small businesses, sales and marketing campaigns, manuscript editing, copy writing, graphic and CAD design, web design, custom sewing, interior design, and therapeutic parenting. Her enthusiasm, talent and hard work ensure that she excels in all of them. Her struggle has often been deciding where to focus her attention.

Today, Mary Brush lends her years of experience to the corporate world. BrushStrokes offerings focus on corporate consulting (including restructuring operations, HR, profit and loss, and sales and marketing - including marketing campaigns and web site design) and editing (business writing, manuscripts, eBooks, presentations and speeches).

BrushStrokes began in 1988 as a clothing design studio, specializing in custom clothing and design, and quickly expanded to include interior decorating, architectural CAD design. graphic design and manuscript editing. Working with entrepreneurs and product development design expanded her skill set to include marketing collateral, presentations, web design and campaigns.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Making Open-bottom Wheelchair Pants

I designed several types of adaptive clothing for my mom with ALS. This post will detail how to make open-bottom wheel chair pants by modifying existing pants (I chose stretchy, elastic waist pants, but it would be possible to use other types of styles and fabrics with some tweaking).  When looking down (or from the side) at the person seated in their chair or laying in bed, the pants will look complete - you should not be able to see any bare skin. Only the person and his/ her caregiver will know the person's bottom is bare.

When my mother needed open bottom pants (to prevent the need to try to push pants down and out of the way when using the restroom and when she was using the lift), we found Silvert's open bottom wheelchair pants. These were great, but apparently they were designed to be used by someone who could stand and support their own weight - because while you could slide the leg part on while in a seated position, the waist closure was in the middle of the back, and this is almost impossible to reach if the person is seated in a chair or laying on a bed.

I decided to modify the Silvert's pants so that a caregiver could put them on easily while the person was seated in the chair or laying on a bed.

 For this project, I'm assuming you are fairly experienced at sewing, so I will not be drawing out every single step. If something is confusing, just let me know and I'll try to explain it better.

To alter a pair of sweat pants (or other knit material not requiring finished edges) to be open back for use in a wheelchair and/or with a lift:

Seated Side Measurement - When the person is seated mark where the person's back meets the chair at the waist, then measure another inch and a half toward the back seam. This is your Seated Side Point. Measure the distance from the center back to this point. This number is your Seated Side Measurement.

  1. Mark the Seated Side Measurement on the waistband. (In this example the Seated Side Measurement is marked on the left, but you can put the mark on whichever side is most convenient for the caregiver to access when securing the pants. Ex. if the person's bed is up against a wall then the opposite side to where the wall is would be the better place to put a closure so the caregiver doesn't have to lean over the person to access the closure.) 
  2. Stitch on both sides of this mark to secure the elastic. 

Seated Back Measurement. When the person is seated. Measure from the top of the waistband to the seat of the chair. 

Marking the cutting line.
3.   Add 2 inches to the Seated Back Measurement. Measure straight down the back seam of the pants the Seated Back Measurement +2" and mark the spot.
4.   Lining up with the Seated Side Measurement mark on the waistband (between the 2 rows of stitches), draw a line  the length of the Seated Back Measurement +1 inch straight down the back of the pants.
5.   From the Seated Side Measurement on the opposite side of the pants, draw an imaginary line straight down the length of the Seated Back Measurement + 1 inch. Mark this point.
6.   Connect these 3 marks with a curved line.
7.   Cut between the stitched lines at the waistband straight down to the curved line.
8.   Cut the curved line.
9.    Open the crotch seam from the curved line toward the front of the pants as far as is needed to allow the person to urinate easily without wetting the pants.  This opening will not be visible when the person is seated with their knees together, but should allow access when the person is seated on the commode with the knees slightly apart.
Adding Plackets:
Material: 2 pieces of fabric 4 inches in width and the Seated Back Measurement +2" in length. Plus, interfacing approximately the same dimensions. 
10.   Apply interfacing to wrong side of placket pieces. 
11.   Fold the placket piece in half (right sides together). 
12.   Stitch 1/2" from top and bottom edge of each placket.
13.   Turn placket piece right side out and press (you can edge stitch if you'd like this to lay a little flatter. 
14.   Apply preferred closures to plackets (velcro, large skirt hooks, magnetic purse snaps... can be modified slightly for separating zipper). 
15.   Stitch raw edge of placket to raw edge of pants openings. 
16.   On the placket piece attached to the side seam side of the pants, you will probably want to zig zag stitch the seam allowance to the placket (or even cover it with seam tape) to make it lay flat and prevent the seam from irritating the skin on the hips and buttocks of the person sitting on it all day.
17.   On the placket piece attached to the back of the pants, fold the placket in to the wrong side of the pant fabric and stitch or tack around all the edges (placket seam will be sandwiched between placket and pants.

To Use:
While person is seated or laying down, slide the pant legs up the person's legs and into place (legs will be completely encased in fabric, but the bottom will remain bare).
If the person is in a chair, lean the person slightly forward and slip the back panel between the person's backside and the chair. Secure the back panel on the side using closures.
If the person is laying down, press the back panel against the person's hip. Roll the person onto that hip and keep rolling until you can see the back panel. Smooth the panel flat on the bed and roll the person back toward you until they are flat on their back. Secure the back panel on the side using closures.

For comfort, and in case of incontinence, a towel or absorbent pad can be placed on the seat under the person. This pad will remain on the bed or in the chair when the person is lifted out.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

New Custom Bag - Leather Luxe

This is the bag I designed for the most recent BeTA Trauma Mama annual fund raising auction.

The winner of the auction wanted a simple black and gold bag that people would recognize as being custom. 
 The base and top of the bag are real leather as are the gold straps (which were covered with a black strap as the gold looked a little gaudy by itself).
 The bag zips shut at the top.  The inside of the bag has lots of pockets and is made with Ripstop nylon which is easy to wipe clean.