Friday, December 31, 2010

Laundering Denim

Prevent Bleeding Denim!

* High quality denim is less processed and tends to bleed more
* Always wash before wearing, even pre-washed denims
* The first few launderings, wash separately; add white vinegar to the water
* Wash in medium temperature and low dry

Above tip courtesy of

Removing Stains From Denim

Denim is a fairly low-maintenance fabric, but stains will set into it if not cleaned right away. For most stains, all you will need to do is blot at them with some cold water mixed with a mild detergent. If the stain is stubborn, try some stronger solutions, like a dry-cleaning solution or white vinegar.

Grease stains

Grease stains most often result from petroleum-based spills, and the stains are extremely stubborn. Using solvent cleaners can usually remove the grease, but these cleaners may contain bleaching agents that can damage the fabric, so make sure to try them on some inconspicuous area of your garment before you apply them on the stain.

The best way to go about it is to blot the stain with the solvent. Now, use the familiar mix of mild detergent and tepid water and gently blot the stain. Third, use a clean white cloth dipped in some alcohol to further blot the stain. This should take care of the matter, but if the stain remains, try scrubbing it gently with dishwashing detergent and then rinsing the area with a mixture of white vinegar and water.

Food and oil stains

The first thing to do is to blot the stained area with a cloth soaked in dry-cleaning solvent. Then, sponge the area gently with a mixture of a mild detergent and tepid water. This blotting and sponging should remove most food and grease stains. You should wipe off the residual detergent with a damp cloth.

Go to the link above to find specific instructions for other types of stains.

REMEMBER, regular stain removal products contain bleach that will blotch your denim forever.

The images used in this post are from "The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen", an impromptu gift for family and friends recorded on Christmas Day 2008 by Narelle and her sister Sarah, which you can view below.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Closet Stuffer

A wee browse in the NZ Spotlight online craft Inspirations Room produced a handy closet tip using that leftover Christmas paper wrapping that costs so much but doesn't seem to have any further usefulness.

Closet Tip:
Stuff scrunched up wrapping paper into hats or the toes of shoes to keep their form while in your closet.

Check out the Inspirations Room link for other ways you could recycle that pretty paper.

If you're in Australia, will take you to the Inspirations Room video tour for a glimpse of the crafty possibilities you can access there.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Your Tribute to Femininity

Here's a holiday project for you. Boutique Narelle invites you to send us a picture of a woman who provides you with an attractive example of Godly femininity. We will select from that collection to post on this website as a tribute to these Titus 2 women.

High resolution digital photos are preferred. If you are scanning an image, 200 dpi and 200% scaling should be fine. Send to BoutiqueNarelle(at)

And what do you get out of this if not fame and fortune? You get a chance to notice and be thankful for the women who have been a positive influence in your life. Count your blessings, and determine to be a blessing in the lives of other girls!

Thanks for spending time here with us this year. A Happy Holiday to you from BoutiqueNarelle!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Noodle in Your Boots

Summer temperatures send you joyfully fishing for your flip-flops and dancing off into the sunshine with almost bare feet while your winter boots droop in the wardrobe gathering dust for the next four months.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

Here's how to protect your boots while you're not wearing them. That sideways droop is damaging to the fabric, so it's beneficial to the boot and your pocketbook to use boot stuffers.

Boot stuffers can be as basic as stuffing newspaper down the boot leg, but if you've ever tried that, you'll know how messy and unsatisfactory it is. I've seen Inflatable Boot Stuffers advertised in the Avon catalogue priced at $12.95 a pair. I have 2 pairs of boots so that works out at $26. If you're like my boot fiend friend with 9 pairs, that's $116.55 in boot storage! Outrageous. The good news is we have here the perfect low-cost answer.
The solution is a pool noodle. Yes, that's right, those coloured foam tubes that you float around on in the swimming pool. They're also useful in your closet!

I purchased one pool noodle for NZ$2.99 (even though the Warehouse label said $4.99) and measured it into 6 sections, a pair at 20cm, a pair at 25cm, and a pair at 30cm. Dad cut them for me using a .....saw. I vacuumed the shavings off the ends, then stuffed a noodle segment into each boot.
A pair of my mother's boots benefited from this experiment. Between us we made a saving of $35.86. Enough for another pair of boots!
My boots are now ready for their summer hibernation, stuffed and blanketed. The dust cover is an upturned recyclable grocery bag (valued at about NZ$1.50).

The Warehouse doesn't stock pool noodles during winter, so get them now!
Thanks to USE YOUR NOODLE AND LOOK AFTER YOUR BOOTS provided by Maxine Berryman in "Simple Savings: Hint of the Week", and thanks to my sister Katrina for passing on the tip!
"The Secrets to Saving Money in New Zealand" free newsletter
9,328 easy hints to reducing your living expenses
go to
Ed: Is anyone else annoyed with Blogger's new post formatting that ignores instructions such as image settings?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chain Reaction

Have you ever gone shopping for a necklace to set off your trendy new outfit but not been able to find ANYthing near what you had in mind? What did you do? Buy the next best thing to what you envisioned? Or wait and keep looking?
I've learned, through many misplaced dollar donations, that it's best for me to wait. If I buy something less than what I had in mind, I won't wear it because I'll always be annoyed that it's not quite right, that it's not quite me.
What if you find the style or colour necklace that is exactly what you had in mind? You fall in love with how it looks on you, and what it does for your outfit. But there's something not quite right with the necklace...faulty workmanship, a few beads that clash with the outfit, poor fit... Now what do you do?

I had a fun fashion experience at Kooky in Palmerston North's Downtown Mall. The Kooky ladies helped me find an overlayer for the dress I had with me, and as I dithered over whether there was enough of the right colour near my face (white tulle coat over black and red dress), shop attendant Pat produced a vibrant necklace that emphasized my favourite colour in the dress.
But she hung the thing around my neck so that the clump of beads and links rested in my cleavage. I wanted it nearer my face. We refastened the chain so it fit just so...and I found myself with a 20cm tail of chain dangling on my chest beside the curve of beads.

My sloping shoulders meant that the excess length was never going to remain hanging down my back.
Pat said, "I just chop my jewellery until it's right."
"Chop?!" I queried.
"With pliers," she said.
I had a pair of jewellery pliers at home. I purchased the necklace with high hopes.
That night, before I did anything to the necklace, I tried it with another outfit (the one I'm wearing in the photo above), and again dithered. The full length necklace looked great on the merino poloneck, but the winter climate here means that I usually have a zipped jacket on top of the poloneck. The necklace would be swallowed up in lapel. I decided that mostly I need short chains that will work with a revere collar shirt or a poloneck jumper.

That decision made, I got out my bead board and pliers. It's easier to control the tiny pieces if you have two pairs of pliers, which I don't, so I supplemented my tool kit with tweezers. They weren't really strong enough, but I managed.
I calculated the total length of chain I needed, divided it by two (27 chain links per side), then pried open about four links and closed as many again as I redistributed the length to match my measurements. The whole operation took about fifteen minutes and didn't cost me a cent.

I left 8 links on the extension for a slightly longer dangle at the front if I choose.

My shopping advice is:
Ask yourself ---
  1. Do you want the necklace for just one outfit or multiple outfits?
  2. If you want the necklace to work for multiple outfits, what is the neckline style you wear most often? Will the necklace work with that?
  3. If the price is perfect but the style, setting, or colour isn't, is there something you can do to fix it at home? If you don't think you can do it, is it something that can be inexpensively fixed by a jeweller or beadshop/experienced beadworker?** If not, keep looking.

**You may have to research your options there. I was on holiday in North Canterbury when I forgot to take my pearl necklace off before I removed my poloneck jersey, the result being the necklace wire popped out of the crimp and pearls spilled into my hand as I grabbed for the swinging wire. Bearing up in hope, I asked a Rangiora jeweller if they could fix it. They could, for NZ$40. That was as much as I paid for the necklace. It was my favourite, but it wasn't worth $80. The kind jeweller suggested I try the bead shop across the road. The owner of the bead shop took one look at my sad pile of pearls and wire and said, "Not a problem. I can restring that for $14." She had it done by the next day, and I shall be forever grateful to her.

These blue pearls are what I wore with one of my costumes on tour with Jules Riding. You can click here to see me performing. If you'd like to know more about my experience, subscribe to or

By the way, if you think something wild is going on with the post formatting, it is. Blogger's New Advanced post solutions are not something we are happy about.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Easy Way to Turn Ties Inside-Out

Have you ever sewed ties for a dress, straps for a chemise, or handles for a bag, and been frustrated with the fiddly task of turning that narrow strip inside-out once you've stitched it?

Here's a simple trick so you can do it in a jiffy.

When you stitch that long edge seam, leave 8cm thread tails at both ends (in case one end breaks).

Take a fat darning needle or other shunter with a blunt end and knot the thread over it.

Poke the needle inside the tube (same end as it's tied at), and pull gently.

The threaded edge of the tie will bend inward and get stuck.

Ease and pull fabric gently while keeping tension on the needle. It will soon begin to slide inward. Sliding is good. The easier it slides, the quicker you'll pull your tie right-side out.

Shunt the fabric over the needle toward the tied end so it scrunches up like a concertina, but don't let it get so tight you can't move it. Ease these folds.

You will need two hands for this task, which isn't shown in these pictures because the hand you can't see is holding the camera.

Some fabrics, like flannelette, are pedantic in slide-mode, but be persistent without forcing and they will respond. I recommend you learn this trick on slippery fabric so you get the feeling for how it should slide.

Extra Tip:
Is your garment too big around the bust, at the back, or under the arms?

The addition of ties fixed into the bodice side seam will enable you to pull the garment to fit your shape. It doesn't have to be a big chunky tie. These skinny minis work wonders and form a cute little bow.

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Eye for Style: how to become a home shopping hostess

A New Zealander in London is showing the English what and what not to wear. Fiona Williams is a fashion savvy Kiwi who married an Englishman. She works from her lovely old six-bedroom home in the Cotswolds, with frequent trips to London and Europe, an interesting juxtaposition which started from a very small idea.

She purchased a dozen garments in London and invited her friends to her house for a clothing sale. Every garment sold, with demand for more. She hosted another party. Demand grew. So did the size of her parties and the number of garments she purchased for them. She has never advertised, but the word has spread about her eye for quality garments at good prices and her knowledge of how to put outfits together to suit the individual. Ladies flock to her parties and spread throughout her large house, trying on clothes and asking her advice.

Is this something you could do? Like Fiona, start small. You don’t know where it could lead!

For those of you who think you might be able to gather a crowd of stylish ladies in your living room, here’s a tip: Get yourself on the mailing list of companies that stock the type of product you’re interested in promoting. For example, below is a notification I received and what could have been done with it. had a pile of stock they needed to move at the end of the spring/autumn season in order to restock. In mid-November they offered 5-suit packs at a 74% reduction, and 10-hat packs at a 65% reduction. There was no guarantee of what colours or styles a client would get in these mystery packs*, but with an initial layout of US$500, one could resell those items for a nice profit and one’s guests would appreciate the chance to try on the suits and hats before purchase, which they couldn’t do if they ordered from the website themselves. The hostess could arrange her suit party prior to the wedding season, when she knew there would be mothers-of-the-bride looking for an outfit.

*The store guaranteed choice of size or sizes between 8-26. Purchaser would receive 5 different suits from the unique collections of award winning designers Lisa Rene, Donna Vinci, DVC Exclusive, and Dorinda Clark Cole. Limit was 2 Suit Packs per customer.

Have you ever had the thought, “Someone should do something about that”?

The person who actually does something about “that” is an entrepreneur.

Do you see a lack in modest clothing options in your region? Do you have an eye for style? Do you enjoy giving fashion advice? Do you have friends who need fashion help? You can become a home shopping hostess!

"Every great advance...has issued from a new audacity of imagination."
- John Dewey

"If you can dream it, you can do it."
- Walt Disney

"Change starts when someone sees the next step."
- William Drayton

"Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to do for it. Establish your priorities and go to work."
- H. L. Hunt

Entrepreneur, Problem-Solver, Modest Fashion Hostess, I wish you well in pursuing your vision. Go get 'em, and let us know how you get on!

BoutiqueNarelle thanks models Hannah and Lydia for their cooperation in the fashion shoot for this post. Couldn't have done it without you, girls!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nightie Nightmare

Are you familiar with the frustration of a finished garment that looks great but doesn't fit?

Then you know something I've experienced many times. I've learned that this is part of learning to be a good seamstress. Nobody gets it right 100% of the time. The key is to know what to do about it when it does happen.

My case in point is my search for a comfortable, modest nightdress design, one that I could wear confidently around the house during summer without needing a dressing gown. (Don't ask me why I don't just get dressed, because if you don't understand that, my explanation won't help!)

A confirmed pyjama afficionado, I discovered to my surprise that nightdresses are even more comfortable than pyjamas. I'd worked out how to make pyjamas modest (apply interfaced patchpockets), but I didn't have a nightie pattern that had a plain, button-up bodice like my pyjamas. I decided to be clever. I would gather a simple, full-length skirt onto an underwear bodice with sleeves.

This first nightie effort was two layers of cotton topped with a confection of lace and ribbon. Very pretty. Very soft. Terrible fit. That bodice almost gave me nightmares. Why didn't I know there is a good reason why nighties are baggy?

1. It wasn't wide enough across the back to allow me to lie comfortably on my side.
2. It was too wide across the front. The square neckline, despite modification to the scoop, gaped whenever I shrugged my shoulders or leaned forward.  That's not a problem in bed, just out of it. (Like at the bathroom sink with a mirror in front of me, or the kitchen sink with a window in front of me.) I don't like having to remember to place my hand on my chest when I lean, plus what if I need both hands for my task?

1st remedy: I tried pinching a double pleat on each side of the neckline, right on the sleeve seam. Result: better at the front but not at the back.

2nd remedy: I inserted a complex concertina diamond, using as much bodice length as I could without cutting into lace or ribbon. This certainly made a difference, allowing me to sleep in peace -- some of the time.

Positive Points:

a) I liked going to bed in something so girly, a style I wouldn't wear in the daytime; and
b) the dobby cotton lining was a raving success. I adored the luxurious softness of it against my skin, and found that on the hottest summer nights when I couldn't bear any bedcovers over me, I was happy in my cotton 'sleeping bag' nightie, yet didn't get chilled once the night air cooled.

I cut my next nightie bodice a size larger. You'd think it would have been a happy affair, given the fabric I used, but I quickly realized that the bodice was too short. This was a problem on the first nightie, but I was so focused on fixing the other problems that I forgot about this one. Now I woke every morning with the waistline two or three inches higher than it should have been, and I'd have to haul the whole garment downward to get comfortable again.

My realignment of the neckline would have worked well but for that nightly rise. I was modest out of bed, but choking in bed! My solution: wear the top button undone when in bed.

After such failures, would you give up making your own nightwear? I nearly did. I bought a few flannelette nighties for winter, but they wore thin after one season plus I was frozen from the knees down. After another summer of sleeping with my beautiful nightmares, I knew I'd have to figure something out.

This is the result. I used a zipped dressing gown pattern -- the option without a waistline. I made the pink one first, raising the neckline of the pattern, adding patch pockets, and applying a placket to keep those cold zipper teeth away from my warm skin. I also added length to the sleeves (for my long arms) and gathered them onto narrow bands to keep out sneaky drafts.

Victory! I actually made a comfortable, modest nightdress! And the embroidery was so pretty to look at in the cold darkness of winter. I loved wearing it...and hated having to make do with something else while it was being laundered.

My second one was even better. I added extra width to the hem with a godet [a triangular piece of fabric sewn into a skirt or sleeve for extra fullness; pronounced “go-day”]. That worked well, so I'll include that fullness in the skirt of my next nightie.

My first nightie nightmare is being pulled apart -- I'm going to use the skirt fabric to make a summer sleeping bag for my 1 year old niece. I'm sure I'll create a happy use for the smiley faces as well. I've found a nightie pattern that works and I hope to have one or two new ones ready for next summer.

Now you know one of the sea-storm processes I went through on the journey toward becoming a competent seamstress. What have we learned from it?
  1. Compare the size of similar garments you wear with the size of what you're making. If you're not using a stretch fabric, pay attention to shrug allowance.
  2. Try fixing what you have before contemplating a replacement.
  3. Don't give up. Try again, but remember, doing the same thing the same way will get the same results, so look for another way.
  4. When you find something that works, keep doing it!

All the best with turning your own nightmares into victories!

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