How to Make a Parasol – An Experiment

My cousin Jenna is one of the coolest people I have ever known. She’s so much fun and I think she’s more mature than I am. Over the last three years we’ve gotten really close. So when she spent her 16th birthday in Europe and came across a black lace parasol she absolutely loved, I wanted her to have one. But I can’t afford one. These things cost over 100$. But I had known about online tutorials since I was her age. When I heard she was coming to visit for spring break I decided that it would be a perfect activity for us to do together. She could not only have a parasol, but it would be her own unique creation and we would have a lot of fun doing it.

Forgive my bad pictures, I just use my phone and it’s tough to take pictures with it in my dark ass living room, especially when those pictures include black lace.

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So here are my supplies. At Fabricland I got ribbon in black, white, silver and ivory. I thought she might want to wrap ribbon around the handle in Tim Burton-esque stripes, but I wasn’t sure what colors so I got a few. I also wanted to use ribbon as the tie, which would double as a pretty bow whether the parasol is open or closed. For other decoration I got different silver buttons with crowns, crests, and flowers, because I thought they would remind her of Europe. I got some red jeweled ones just because they’re pretty. Of course I needed a fabric, so I got black stretch lace. And I got a kid’s umbrella, because the smaller size makes sense for a parasol, and it’s all Walmart had anyway. Also pictured: a charm I’ve had in my drawer for years, needles, and thread. Not pictured: a big cross pendant with chains and silver glitter fabric glue I left in another bag, because we had talked about painting a silver spiderweb pattern over it. It all cost…well let’s just say I know why these things are so damn expensive now.

When I had another look at the tutorials, it became clear this was not just a couple hours’ job. So I decided to get a head start and do the base in advance (Thank god I did, it took all day). I settled in for a carefree day of parasol-making, blogging, and indie comedies on Netflix.

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The first step is to pop the top off the umbrella. This was insanely hard. It took pliers, a soft cloth to prevent gouging, and a ton of muscle to twist like hell and get it off.

IMG_1378Now normally you would also remove the plastic caps on the ends of the spokes and set them aside for later. This wasn’t the case for me because instead of them being glued on over the fabric, the fabric was sewn to the caps through little holes. So I left them on and just snipped the thread.

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I also then snipped the thread holding the fabric on half way up the spokes. As you can see here, without the nylon to hold the spokes down, they’re coming up more flat now instead of holding a more rounded bell shape.

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So then it looked like this. The last thing I had to do to get the fabric off was snip the threads and break up the glue at the top.

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So then I was left with this. At this point the traditional method involves using the removed umbrella fabric as a pattern for your new fabric. I started doing this by separating one of the triangles by cutting it at the seams, then laying it over the lace and cutting around it leaving for seam allowance. But as soon as I cut that first triangle I decided this would take absolutely forever, and I don’t have the talent to sew them together straight. So fuck it. I just did what I had in mind before checking the tutorials and lay the lace over the top of the umbrella. I poked a little hole in it and pushed it over the silver thing at the top to hold it in place. The lace is stretch, so it’s fine. It looked like this…

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I decided to hold off on trimming the fabric, because I wasn’t sure what Jenna would prefer. We could trim it, leave it looking like a veil, or pile the excess fabric over the top, which could be quite pretty and let less light pass through. Now I just had to sew the lace to the plastic caps on the end of the spokes. It was super hard keeping the spokes even, because they liked to swing back and forth. It didn’t turn out perfect, but it’s not obvious. I stretched the lace pretty far hoping that this would return the parasol to the bell shape it had before, but it didn’t really work. So then I pulled the ends together with thread. It wasn’t super pretty looking, but it wasn’t that noticeable either, and if Jenna didn’t like it I could easily snip it apart. This took a lot of effort since I had nobody to hold the ends down while I tied off the thread.

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Done for the day. This kind of shows what it looks like with the extra fabric piled on top. I think I’m off to a good start!

Day 2. Jenna is here!!

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Isn’t she the cutest girl in the whole world? I put her in one of my outfits because I thought it would be fun to dress up and go to dinner.

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While I got my nails done, she set to work decorating it. I should have got more of a close-up. She sewed the buttons around the top, and put the cross in the middle. She spread around some of the glitter glue over the top so it looks like it was snowed on with sparkles.

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It turns out she really did love it with a veil. It reminded us of the big black hat Lydia wears in Beetlejuice. So she just trimmed one side of it very slightly. She loved this parasol to death by the way. She carried it with her to the restaurant and back even though it was dark out.

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We didn’t get as much time together as we wanted, so I didn’t get to see it with any ribbon. But I sent her home with the remaining supplies, and she plans to add to it later. It’s also going to be used as a charm parasol, with little tokens from her travels added over time. This whole thing turned out to be a GREAT idea. We had a lot of fun and the look on her face and seeing her hug it was priceless. And I’m totally going to buy her this outfit in her size one day.

A smiling goth. She is just that happy.

A smiling goth. She is just that happy.

Wedding Bouquet Alternatives

Because of the volcano in Europe, there’s been a real issue getting products sent where they need to go around the world. This has created many shortages, including flowers. I’m told that due to this a lot of brides are having a bit of a freak-out. I’m here to help.
The reason flowers became a tradition is because in the middle ages, people only bathed about once a year. By the time wedding season rolled around, people were pretty smelly, and they needed flowers to mask the smell. You, being a 21st century woman, I’m guessing do not stink. Not to mention the many people out there allergic to flowers. So are flowers really necessary then? Nope. You and your maids are free to use any number of gorgeous and non-perishable alternatives, including fans, parasols, feathers (my personal favorite), fake flowers, and even buttons. I’ve supplied you here with some pictures to inspire you.
A much better article about this than mine can be found here at Offbeat Bride.

Sewing

I’m still waiting for a post from my guest blogger about our shopping experience together, and her first successful shopping experience online, so I guess I’ll take a moment now to talk to you about sewing.
It’s actually a myth that sewing your own clothes will save you money. I mean it certainly can, but often it won’t. Of course this largely depends on what your materials are and what your skill level is/how much work will go into it. It will obviously cost you more if you have to factor in the cost of a sewing machine and lots of wasted fabric due to some first failed attempts. The idea is to at least save on labor costs, which can be done, but keep in mind a lot of clothes are already cheaply made overseas. If you’re really only considering doing this to save money, you should consider carefully what you would like to make or head on over to etsy or an outlet store.
The real reason to do this is for clothing that’s completely custom and designed by you, which of course by now you know I’m a huge fan of, and for fun. Let me tell you, I can NOT sew! I can’t sew a straight line. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make something you can wear, and enjoy doing it. You just have to focus on a specific look that’s a bit, hmm, disheveled on purpose (and it MUST look like it was on purpose), and if you enjoy that sort of thing, then you’re good to go. Think Alice in Wonderland in all her awesome and crazy makeshift outfits. I must say that when done right it can look almost high-fashion, which is pretty damn cool. I find that this is a look that can be both edgy and romantic, so I really like it, and I’ve made a couple skirts (don’t even ask me about tops and dresses…yet.) that were hardly planned out and evolved during the sewing process. What I got was a complete and lovely surprise at the end, and never a waste of the few hours it took to make them.


If you want to give this a try I have a few tips for you. Make your waistband on a drawstring, sewing it to whatever you choose to tie around your waist. Ribbon is great for this. Don’t close the sides until you’re happy with the fit and fullness. That way until you’re happy with it, you can continue adding and removing fabric without having to worry about measuring out a pattern. If you’re a romantic Victorian girly girl, you can sew the fabric over the waistband instead of directly to it and leave the sides open so that the skirt can be gathered up at the back and worn as a bustle over another skirt. I don’t see a lot of people doing this except certain friends of mine, but for those people who are into that sort of thing, it’s a really great idea to keep things fun and versatile.
You can sew something tattered, layered, in long panels only sewn together at the top to make high sexy slits, whatever you can think of, often changing your mind and experimenting as you go. I’m going to post a couple tutorials for a more specific approach later on, but for now I just want you to tell me about your beginner sewing endeavors. Leave me a comment!