Undersized Urbanite Contest

Posted on Feb 2, 2014 in Tiny Dorms


I’ve decided to enter the Tiny Dorm into a contest! I discovered the Undersized Urbanite contest when I happened upon MiniModPod‘s blog today, and I’m enchanted enough by the name of the contest to be sold right off the bat.

What’s more is, since this is my first endeavor into miniaturing, I get to be in the “Newbie” category and don’t have to compete with the incredible bloggers that have been doing this forever.

In any case, I’m less in it to win it, more in it for the opportunity to share my work and be motivated to stay at it even when it gets tedious (and to get it done by May 5th) :-).



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“Fiery Coral” is a Crazy Color for Shoes

Posted on Jan 27, 2014 in Refashion

fiery coral shoes in progress_reducedWhat do you do when you want a pair of shoes in a really specific color (“Fiery Coral” to be exact), and the only thing you can find in that color is Satin Blanket Binding? Well, you find a way to make it work.

fiery coral converse_reduced

“Fiery Coral” Converses

When my boyfriend, Rob, and I decided we wanted to wear crazy-colored, matching converse sneakers at a wedding, we selected a color from the Converse website. I needed the shoes on short notice to get heels and make a dress to match, since I didn’t want to go to the ceremony in the sneakers. I picked them up from Nordstrom, which was the only place that had them in stock, and found them to be much brighter than on the converse website (see right).


With the shoes in tow, I went to every shoe store in Pittsburgh and found exactly zero pairs of heels in the same color. So I went to Joann Fabrics, with the shoe in the child seat of my cart (the joy of living within the borderline midwestern world of Pittsburgh is that total strangers actually comment, in a friendly way, if you do silly things like that). The only product they had to match was the satin blanket binding, so I decided to make it work.


fiery coral shoes before_reduced

The shoes before

I dug an old, yellowed pair of shoes out of my closet and set to turning them Fiery Coral. I’d seen tutorials around the internet about covering old shoes in new fabric just by removing the old soles, gluing the fabric on, and then gluing the soles back on. Well, that didn’t work. The soles of the shoes would not come off, at least not intact. The satin isn’t flexible at all, the pieces weren’t quite wide enough, and the glue didn’t hold anyway and created unsightly marks in the glossy surface. It would have been an excellent example of a pinterest fail.

So then I tried to wrap/pleat/fold full strips of the material around the shoes. I still couldn’t glue them on, so I hammered flathead dressmakers pins through the fabric and into the sole of the shoe. The soles of the shoe are pretty hard, so it wasn’t easy to get them all in, and resulted in a lot of mangled pins, but in the end it worked like a charm.

pin carnage_reduced

Pin carnage!

I secured the loose ends on the inside with duct tape, a combination of the regular silver kind and the new fabric duct tape you can find at craft stores. The end result isn’t the kind of shoe you can wear for years, but they held up great for the single day that I needed to wear them at the wedding. The dress was Simplicity 2212 and you can read more about it here.

fierycoral3_reducedfiery coral shoe_reduced


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Simplicity 2212 – “Fiery Coral” is a hard to color match

Posted on Jan 27, 2014 in Projects, Sewing

fierycoral2_reducedThis dress started out as a solitary, ridiculously bright, Converse sneaker roaming the aisles of Joann fabrics in the child seat of my shopping cart. I feel a certain pressure these days to show up to events in clothing I’ve made myself, and this was for the wedding of one of my boyfriends’ college buddies, so we wanted to do something fun and matchy. Somewhere in our conversations we came to the conclusion that matching converse sneakers would be appropriately silly, picked a color from the Converse website, and subsequently discovered that “fiery coral” is actually code for “neon coral” and is actually much brighter than the internet might lead you to believe.

I wanted a pair of matching heels to wear to the wedding and the dinner, with plans to change into the sneakers for dancing. Turns out, high heels don’t come in “fiery coral.” At least not at any shoe store in Pittsburgh. So that was a DIY project all on its own (which you can read about here).

After my endeavor in shoemaking, I still had to make a dress. By this point I realized the dress itself had to be muted, and while I don’t usually wear black to weddings, I decided a little black dress was the only way to make this work. The dress is Simplicity 2212 with a only few modifications – I made the godets slightly wider and added them at the end, after debating for days on what kind of fabric to use for them, rather than before attaching the skirt to the bodice as the pattern requested. I also skipped the boning, mostly because I didn’t have any on hand, and it didn’t seem to suffer for it. I’m not a very busty girl, so the bodice ended up being a little large for me, but that was easily resolved by placing the buttons about two inches further along the strap.

I used a splash of coral stretch satin for the lining and added a pair of hotpants to the ensemble (which were actually an afterthought because I didn’t want the lace godets to make the dress toooo scandalous). The conveniently matching buttons arrived just in time as one of my perks from the Knit The Bridge indiegogo campaign. The dress isn’t my favorite or best fitted production ever, but overall it was wearable (and I ran out of time).

The shoes were a hit at the wedding. We were pretty proud of ourselves :-). Excuse my beat up legs, I got in a fight with a thorn bush on a rock climbing trip.

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Itsy Bitsy Electronics – Miniature Nexus 5, iPad, Phone 5, and Ti-83+

Posted on Jan 19, 2014 in Projects, Tech Shop, Tiny Dorms


Another installation in the painfully slow progress for my Tiny Dorms project – tiny electronics! These proved harder to make than I’d planned, I blame the fact that technology has gotten far to small and thin in real life, which means you have to make them soooo tiny for miniature life. They were made by cutting the basic shapes on a laser cutter, engraving the back images with the laser cutter. I couldn’t get acrylic sheet thin enough, so I ended up cutting them with Delrin. The Delrin proved more prone to melting than acrylic and came scuffed and rolled up, so it was a bit frustrating to work with. The calculators are made with 1/16″ Delrin and the other pieces are all 1/32″ Delrin. I printed the screens on glossy sticker paper and carefully cut them out with an exacto knife. The close-up photography is a bit harsh on them, I swear they look better in real life :-)

Laser cutting, as usual, done at TechShop Pittsburgh!

Download the file to make your own (includes printables and the laser cutting templates):
PDF Template
Adobe Illustrator (.ai) Template

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Five Things I Learned in the Operating Room that Revolutionized my Sewing

Posted on Jan 18, 2014 in Life of a Medical Student, Sewing

As a medical student, I’ve spent a lot of time in the operating room learning how to sew people back together, and took away a bunch of cool techniques to use in my sewing (fabric, not people) at home.

Now I’m no surgeon, but after the emergency department, the operating room is without a doubt my second favorite place in the hospital. I like it so much so that I did an acting internship on the trauma surgery service and I’m still spending some weekends volunteering with the service (much to the horror of emergency medicine residents, who seem to universally dread the 80 hour weeks and endless scalp-suturing). I have a profound respect for the attention to detail, fine work, and value placed on technique that these surgeons develop. Here are some of the things I learned from them (still done with substantially less finesse than they do it with). These techniques may not be new, and maybe they have sewing names that I don’t know, but they were new to me so I thought I’d share.

1. Closing holes (invisibly) with a running subcuticular suture

subcuticularThe subcuticular suture is a technique used in skin closure, done with absorbable sutures, which creates a cosmetically pleasing and virtually invisible seam. The basic idea is that the sew parallel to the skin, immediately below the surface. I used to use an overcast stitch to close gaps in pillows and things when you turn them right side out, but it’s virtually impossible to do it without being left with external evidence. By mimicking the subcuticular technique, my seams are virtually invisible now.

The way I do it is to take small bites right at the fold line where the seam need to be closed, in line with the direction of the seam, making sure not to pierce the outside of the seam. If you line up each new bite with the exit point of the previous stitch, when you pull the whole thing tight, it lines up perfectly and invisible. Tie a knot at the end, and as a surgeon would say, “bury the knot,” by simply passing the needle down through the seam and out again at a point a fair distance from the knot. Cut the string and the end disappears into your work.

Subq stitching

2. Stuffing small things with tweezers

wound packingYou often have to pack wounds with gauze post-operatively (or after draining an abscess in the emergency department), and we use a lot of this packing strip material to do it. Often, you’re putting it into a hole that is just a centimeter or so wide, but sometimes quite deep. To get it all the way in, we usually use a combination of forceps and cotton-tipped applicators.

It never occurred to me to use tweezers to stuff little things (like the tiny pillows I’m making for my miniature dorm), but I’ve started using them now because it allows me to get a lot of stuffing into a tiny hole, which means shorter distances that I need to oversew. (I don’t need to use a cotton tipped applicator to get it in deeper, because there are no squishy internal organs in my pillows that I can damage with my tweezers).

pillow stuffing

 3. How to hold scissors (I’m serious)

I never thought that my whole approach to holding scissors would be changed by my time in the OR, but it was! And honestly, this is one of the biggest revelations I had while I was there. Scissors in the OR are, surprisingly, often dull and crappy. This means that you inevitably suffer an embarrassing moment where you try to snip a thread, the scissors awkwardly jam the suture thread between the blades, and you look like a fool who didn’t learn to use scissors in the 1st grade.

But one scrub tech (the poor soul who is responsible of making sure none of us mess up the sterile field and that the surgeon has all of the instruments he needs before he knows he needs them), gave me a simple tip: Push against the top finger loop with your thumb and pull on the bottom one with your fingers. It makes the blades align with more force and lets you cut through thick string (like suture), even with a really dull blade.


4. Hemostats are the pliers, clamps, and extra hand of delicate work

This tip is all over the internet already, so I don’t feel a need to elaborate too much, but everyone should have a hemostat in their tool kit for sewing, or any other type of DIY really. In the OR, they go by all sorts of names – the Kelly Clamp, Mosquito, Kocher, Halsted, all sorts of others. But they all serve the same basic function – they hold really tightly onto thin things and lock into place. I have three types – one curved, one straight with a serrated jaw, and one straight with a smooth jaw. You can buy them for virtually no money at all on amazon. I’d also recommend buying a complete dissection kit (like this one). The scissors pictured above also came from my dissection kit, and they’re great for precision cutting.


5. Using a loop and extra thread to tie a knot when the thread is too short

This was a technique I saw a surgeon use (after biting a resident’s head off for letting me cut a suture too short), and I saw it several times thereafter. In surgery, if you can’t tie a knot, you basically have to take the whole length of suture out and do it again, so being able to tie the knot even when someone messes up, is a good thing. This isn’t exactly the same as was done in the OR, but it’s the same basic idea: making a loop to put a longer string through, so that you can use that length to tie a knot on a really short string.

Knot Tying

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Tiny Dorms: Fridge and Microwave

Posted on Jan 4, 2014 in Projects, Tech Shop, Tiny Dorms

My tiny college kids got themselves a tiny fridge and microwave. It’s made of Delrin, because I wasn’t able to get 1/16″ white acrylic. The Delrin was a novel experience for me – it’s virtually impossible to glue and the piece that I bought from McMaster was warped and scratched up, so construction wasn’t exactly… easy. But it came together in the end! It stands a little under 3 inches tall.

fridge2 reduced

The eggs, cream cheese, butter, Stouffer’s frozen dinner, and large milk carton came from Ann Vanture’s Paper Minis. The Chinese takeout and small milk carton are from Toni Ellison’s blog. The miniature light bulb is a screw base bulb from Cir-Kit Concepts.

I’ll post the cutting files and tutorial once I’ve formatted them better :-)

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Tiny Dorms: The Blank Slate

Posted on Dec 28, 2013 in Projects, Tech Shop, Tiny Dorms

Dorm rooms are a special thing. For most college kids, our dorm room is our first time living away from home, our first time in full control of our own space to decorate and personalize and cram our entire lives into. It’s the ultimate blank slate – everyone starts with something identical: homogenous desks and dressers , blank white walls, plain windows, and empty closets. Yet once we’re all moved in, dorm rooms are all infused with personality in a pretty unique way. So call it a case of pathetic nostalgia, but I want to do it again :-). This time in 1/12 scale.

So here’s the blank slate! It was virtually entirely made on the laser cutter at my local TechShop. Scroll over and click on the blue dots for information and tutorials:

room 101_1_reduced


Desk Tutorial
Chair Tutorial
Bed Tutorial
Dresser Tutorial
Mattress Pattern

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