My Backstory: How I Started DIY Men’s Shirts Makeovers and the Transformation I Experienced Because of It

My Backstory: How I Started DIY Men's Shirts Makeovers and the Transformation I Experienced Because of It, photo of Carly J. Cais wearing DIY men's shirt dress

Hello dear readers!

It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve posted anything new…and it HAS been. 2 years, 3 months, and 1 day! So much has been happening in my life and there have been a few times over the months and years when I have wanted to close down my chapter as a blogger for good.

BUT! Something kept tugging at me – something that said that this site had been and still continues to be a valuable resource to people, so I shouldn’t shut it down entirely. And it didn’t feel entirely finished to me – I felt like I still had more to offer and share with everyone, but wasn’t quite ready to come back to it just yet. Not for many months – and I’ve even had some huge setbacks in-between! But that’s a story for another day…

Given I, like many hundreds of millions of people right now, are quarantined in our homes and are actively practicing social distancing due to the spread of COVID-19…I felt it was time to get back to the ol’ blog again. I’ve missed all of you a ton! And I realized I never actually shared my story, as to how I got into DIY in the first place, and why it became so important to me. I’ve never shared this story anywhere before now. So here goes, my men’s shirt makeover backstory…


Carly J. Cais: My Origin Story

Growing up in rural Northwestern New Jersey, a child of immigrants, meant we didn’t have a lot. My dad had come to the U.S. for a career as a research chemist. My mom came with him, and taught classes at the local college. We had no other family in the U.S. – our entire extended family lived in Australia. My parents had purchased a small home on 1.7 acres of forest in this tiny town in New Jersey, and initially money was tight. My mother was very scrappy: she made Halloween costumes for my brother and me our of paper mache and cut up margarine tubs, bolts of cloth from the fabric store, notions and trimmings and all sorts of things. I too was creative and loved crafting and making things. My mother taught me to sew when I was somewhere between the ages of 6-8; I made a lopsided stuffed bear with a melted-looking half-smiling half-frowning face.

As a kid I wasn’t popular – my family wasn’t wealthy, I wore hand-me-downs and cheap clothes, my mom cut my hair, and I spent most of my time reading or drawing and writing my own stories. As I got older with the same group of kids I’d been in school with since kindergarten, the gap widened. I think around 2nd or 3rd grade was when I really started noticing the differences, and I focused on the obvious one: I didn’t wear have cute, trendy clothes to wear. I felt I didn’t fit in based on how I looked, and I started sketching what the other girls were wearing and paying attention to how they’d put outfits together. I begged my mom to let me buy some patterns with my pocket-money, and I began sewing my own clothes, hoping I would fit in better if I were dressed like all the other girls.

DISASTER!

The first time I wore a dress I had made from a pattern and I was SO proud of – all the kids made fun of me, sneering “Did your mom dress you today?!” I guess what I had chosen to make: the mail-away pattern for a “Stylish V-Neck Dress” – putting in HOURS trying to figure out the crinkly tissue paper pattern with misses’ sizing for my 11-year-old self – didn’t quite line up with what was in style at Long Valley Elementary School, LOL. That day I rushed home in tears and crumpled up the beautiful tiger-striped and brick bodice inset dress, shoving it away in the corner of my closet, never to be work again.

But I kept going, paid a little more attention to what was trendy amongst the “IN” crowd, and that year I actually got quite good at sewing: I made tops and skirts and T-shirts, even vests and baggy pants. I loved wearing them because no one else had anything like them – and gradually, as I got more confident I gained friends. Probably the outfits had little to do with it…but I was more sure of myself, and felt like sewing and making things that didn’t exist until I stitched them up was my SUPERPOWER.

Fast-forward to October 2007. I had just closed down my short-lived Misses’ clothing and jewelry line RIVETED, and I still wanted to stay connected to the fashion world. I had a 2-year old child at home and was a stay-at-home mom; I’d also met someone who ran a fashion blog, and so I pitched the idea of me writing for her blog, producing monthly articles. So I began writing for FashionTribes, in a series called “Carly’s Chic Steals and Fashion Deals of the Week.” I archived most of the posts I wrote for the site here (though I can’t vouch if all the photos still exist!). WHEW those posts were bad! I honestly cringe re-reading how bad my writing was back then. But they began my journey as a blogger – though I was blogging for someone else at the time.

In January 2008 I wanted somewhere to put all my FashionTribes articles, and so I created this blog (which at the time I called Chic Steals based off the name of my FashionTribes article series). And then outside of the article I wrote, I started to post on my blog ideas I’d had, fashion I was interested in, and projects I’d made. It was still early on for this blog, but I really enjoyed sharing these things with people. Blogs were just beginning their heyday, and as a stay-at-home mom I craved adult interaction and using part of my brain that wasn’t 100% devoted to raising my child. This blog became an outlet for me.

Everything changed in August 2009 when I posted a tutorial for a Cute Summer Shirtdress I’d made from an old shirt of my husband’s. The tutorial was shared hundreds of times online, posted on different blogs, and essentially went viral amongst the DIY, upcycling, and sewing communities. I was thrilled! I had no idea that people would be interested in my little men’s shirt makeover project. SO many people commented on it, asked questions about it – and it essentially launched my blog. I started sharing tutorials and how-to’s in earnest on the blog, many of them focusing on upcycling other pieces of clothing. I became known for DIY’ing men’s shirts into cute clothing – and it was something I continued to share on my site because there seemed to be such an interest in it. During this time my husband quit his job to go to school full-time. Money was tight (just like it was when I was growing up), and though I never shared this on my website, thrifting materials or upcycling the clothing we had was necessary, both to feed my creative drive, and the needs of the blog. I couldn’t just buy things new! I enjoyed more than anything helping other people like me be more creative, more thrifty and scrappy, and make beautiful things despite their circumstances. Blogging helped me feel connected when I felt alone, and connected to many even though I was taking care of a child all day long. I felt fulfilled and whole.

Then…

May 2014. My husband left.

I wrote very little on my blog about this event, earth-shattering though it was, because I wanted to protect my son from the sordid details, not say anything bad about the “other parent,” follow all the advice the therapists give for successful dissolution of a marriage without severely traumatizing one’s child, etc. etc.

However, the silence was broken by his father, who later actually told my son that he left. So I feel that it’s at least okay sharing that much.

When this happened, it felt like my whole world came apart. I lost 27 pounds. I couldn’t keep food down for 4.5 months, surviving on dry bread and oatmeal. I kept waking up in the middle of the night, having panic attacks, my heart pounding and short of breath. I was puking into a plastic bag in the mornings as I was driving my son into school, going down the highway at 55mph. For the first time in almost 15 years I had no idea what the future looked like. And this scared me to death! How would we survive?? How could I suddenly go from a couple thousand dollars in one year from the blog, to the median income in the United States?? Since 2005 I had been forced to become a stay-at-home mother by my husband and his parents, who would not allow me to work once I had my son. They were very traditional. It was non-negotiable. Some parents wish they could stay at home with their child. I was never given the choice. I did it because that was what they wanted me to do, but my blog was a way for me to “work” on my own terms and around taking care of my son, still satisfying my in-laws’ requirements but my salvation that helped me not lose my mind in the meantime. Even though I had monetized my blog, partnered with brands to do paid and sponsored posts, sold advertising, and received some free stuff because of the blog – it wasn’t a full-time income, nor one that could support me, my son, our home, and a dog. I had not had a real job since 2005 – 9 years prior!

So I had to scramble. I applied for job after job, ones that were barely even related to what I wanted to do but just would provide a bare minimum income. I just needed to make ends meet, somehow cover the mortgage and our expenses, keep our lives afloat. My son was 8-and-a-half. He was terrified I was not going to be able to pay for the house and we would lose our home. He saw me upset and crying, sick and gaunt, not sleeping. I got rejected from job after job…or there was just silence from the employers. I had no local contacts, no one who could vouch for my work ethic and skills. My whole life had revolved around being a homemaker, cooking for my family, raising my son – and writing my blog on the side. The lowest point was where I asked for an application to work the register at the local Target, for $9/hour. I filled it out at the dining room table at home, tears dripping down my face, signing it with the date, feeling like it was a cop out. But I couldn’t bring myself to actually hand it in. The last time I had worked a cash register was 11 years ago. I KNEW I had more to offer and felt like I was letting everyone down, including my family who’d paid for my higher education (I had a B.A. degree and four certificates), my son who believed in me (I spoke 2 languages and had raised him bilingual), and myself. I felt like all my stability, my entire identity, had been pulled out from under me. I had no idea who I was anymore, all I knew was that I HAD to keep my son’s life stable. I HAD to keep him in the same home he’d grown up in, the same neighborhood, the same friends, the same routine. And that meant I had to scramble like crazy behind the scenes to scrape together everything I could to keep us afloat! Kinda like the little kid treading water, over a deep, dark scary part of the ocean – and the kindly dolphin rises below the surface of the water and lets the kid ride on its back. The kid has no idea, laughing and splashing happily on the dolphin’s back, enjoying the water – never realizing the deep dark murky depths below. THAT was everything I was trying to be for my son, so he would never realize just how close we were to the edge.

One day I went to my closet, frustrated. My husband had left a large amount of his clothing, including many shirts I had bought for him that he had never worn, many of which still had the tags on them. My side of the closet was filled, crammed to the brim with clothing I had made for my blog, received as review pieces, sewn myself…basically the physical representation of everything that was wrong in my marriage. The clothes that I owned had no cohesive style. No consistent color palette, no consistency in pattern. It looked like the closet of 20 different women! There were so many different identities I had taken on, trying to be someone else, trying to be who my husband and his parents wanted me to be, trying to pretend. I hated most everything in that closet because it wasn’t really me. I had lost my way and covered up problems with pretty clothing and writing about it, distracting me from the deeper internal issues. The clothes in my closet represented years of effort and fakery. I couldn’t stand the site of them – and began ripping everything down from the hangers. Shirts, dresses, shoeboxes, belts, bags – EVERYTHING. Even the bins I kept things in, the hangers…every item in my closet came out. I piled it all in huge piles in my bedroom and forced myself to live with it front and center for 3 weeks as I sorted it through it. Even though this was 6 months after Marie Kondo’s book debuted in the United States, I still hadn’t read it at the time. As I was going through the piles, I imposed similar questions on each piece: does this item evoke a happy memory? If NOT – get rid of it!! That was the dress I was wearing at his brother’s wedding, when he laughed during the whole ceremony and his own father had to tell him to hush up – while I was mortified. That was the skirt I was wearing for my 35th birthday – the day he forgot to plan anything and was angry at me for even having a birthday. That was the shirt I was wearing the day he stuffed a few of his items in a backpack and walked out, despite my pleas to do the right thing for our son. ALL of it HAD to go. From the piles I began selling everything I could, dragging bags to the local Buffalo Exchange, listing items on eBay, selling to friends, and finally…donating to Goodwill. I was getting rid of all the false identities I had tried to wear throughout my 11-year marriage and 14.5 years of being with the same person, in order to get down to the real ME at the center of it all. During this time I also began pitching my blog to try to drum up ad placements and paid posts, freelancing for other bloggers, consulting for small businesses. I tried to make ends meet and continue to pay the bills and the mortgage any way I could.

The clothing piles got smaller and smaller as I kept looking for a job, and my identity. As I sorted and purged and only kept things that ACTIVELY made me happy, I repainted the closet and started putting only those items back. There were very few things left that did not have bad memories or feelings associated with them. My closet was mostly bare.

I had to look work-appropriate and put-together for job interviews. So I turned to the pile of shirts I had bought for my husband, never worn. In some way they represented him and this miserable new life he had thrust us all into, and in some way they still weren’t tainted with him at all. I wanted to reclaim some power from this whole situation; make lemons into lemonade. So I started using my refashioning, DIY’ing, and sewing skills to make over the pile of stuff he’d left, into cute dresses, skirts, and shirts for myself. I already have been doing that now and again for my blog…now I took it to the next level. With each item of clothing I completed and hung in my newly-redesigned and sparse closet, I took a small piece of my power back. I wore what I had made to interviews, and people would ask me about what I was wearing because it was unique and cute and interesting. They remembered me as the “shirt girl.” And something changed in me: I finally felt like I had a little bit of control again, and had found myself. Finally all my applying to jobs paid off; I landed a part-time job doing social media marketing for a commercial photography studio.

It was a small reprieve but I STILL had to hustle because it still wasn’t enough. At one point I was working 4 part-time jobs/gigs to cover all the bills! I kept trying to share how-to’s and helpful ideas for refashioning on my blog, hoping to at least keep up the happy veneer to help my audience. I knew there were people out there who enjoyed my clothing makeovers and I wanted to keep what I share out there creative and fun, not bogged down in the day-to-day of me scrambling to make money and cover the bills without destroying my credit rating or losing our home. I wanted to share and inspire people! I still kept applying to full-time jobs so I didn’t have to work so hard at so many different things…and eventually in Spring 2016 I landed the full-time job as Marketing Manager for a software company, that would lift my son and I out of that life permanently.

Being able to earn a full-time income that was enough to pay all our bills and provide adequate health insurance was such a relief! Finally I didn’t have to spend all my waking hours working, working from my laptop as my son went to his Tae Kwon Do classes, dragging my computer to the park while he played, missing out on moment after moment as I worked and worked to earn. The day ended after 8 hours of work, and I could be there for my son, pick him up from school, make him a snack after school, help him with his homework. But a side effect of marketing for work, and being creative all day was that I became so burned out I had nothing left for my blog and my audience, no time to put into tutorials, no new ideas. That went into my day job, and I posted less and less on my blog. I redesigned it and rebranded it, and launched my blog with a new name and new identity that Fall: Chic Creative Life. Around that time, the company I was at experienced a downturn and eliminated all 4 of the people from my department, until I was the only one left standing, doing the jobs of 5 people. They slashed the Marketing budget to 1/3 of what it was, and then put an expectation on me that I was required to produce 3x the number of leads that we, as a fully-staffed department, had been able to pull in last year. The numbers were impossible. The writing was on the wall for that job.

Things had gotten crazy in the day-to-day, and though I fully intended to keep blogging, I was so burned out I had no creativity left. The last post on my blog was dated December 29, 2017.

In the meantime, I switched jobs (twice), was hit by a car, broke my wrist, lost the ability to use my right hand, went through 8 months of physical therapy, had 2 surgeries, and couldn’t hold a sewing needle for a really, really long time! But that’s a story for another day.

And now: a coronavirus pandemic. I’ve been furloughed from my full-time job. We were so ill-prepared in America for a pandemic that we are literally on Plan D: social distancing. Oregon has a shelter in place order in effect. And here I find myself at home, isolated again, not working. Kinda like I was back in 2014 when my husband left and my world was turned upside-down.

But this time I have a blog. One that continued to earn a small income, even when I couldn’t actively post on it. One that at its highest point reached 120,000 pageviews a month, and had a readership of thousands of people across the world. I have the skills and abilities to makeover clothing, and a way to teach others how to do the same. Plus, throughout this whole crazy journey, I managed to find my voice, figured out who I AM, and reclaim power along the way. I’m no longer a victim of circumstance, and instead am able to choose my path. Refashioning men’s shirts may seem a strange way to assert feminism, but there it is. I’m taking my identity BACK. Sure it’s about thriftiness, upcycling, scrappiness, and a symbol of surviving the despair at the end of a relationship, but it’s also about creativity, happiness, and leaving your own stamp on things that are sometimes dull, and stiff, and sad reminders of the past. It’s about trying to look decent and enjoy things despite everything falling down around you. It’s radical. It’s a movement. And I hope you will join me.

xo

Carly

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DIY New Year’s Eve Shooting Stars Holiday Party Hats

It’s officially Party Season (TM) – and that means glittery, festive, fun, loud, joyful celebrations!

I really love making my own party hats (or putting children to work making party hats ūüėČ ) because they’re easy, cheap, and I can make them to completely coordinate with the party theme. Plus I can make them from scraps lying around! Perhaps you’ve never tried making your own, maybe because you don’t have time or it seems like a pain. But you may find that once you get [that party] started…you can’t stop! Now, let’s all hum that tune as we head on down to the how to…

How to Make a DIY Party Hat from Cardstock and Ribbon

You Need:

8.5″ x 11″ cardstock¬† //¬† Party Hat Template (click to download the PDF)¬† //¬† tinsel garland (I found this star version at Michael’s)¬† //¬† ribbon (not pictured – I used silver curling foil wrapping ribbon)¬† //¬† pen¬† //¬† scissors¬† //¬† stapler¬† //¬† box cutter¬† //¬† tape (not pictured)

How To Make a DIY Shooting Stars Party Hat:

1. Trace Party Hat Template onto the back of your cardstock.

2. Cut out the template from the cardstock. Use the box cutter to slice where indicated.

3. Curl the cardstock into a cone shape, and slip the edge tab into the slit you cut. Secure with some tape on the inside.

4. Thread one end of the ribbon into one of the small slits at the base of the hat.

5. Secure with tape, and then cut to desired length. (Make sure that it’s long enough to tie under your chin!) Do the same for another piece of ribbon and the other side of the hat.

6. Now the fun part: decoration! Staple the garland to the bottom of the hat.

7. Twirl the garland around the cone hat, securing with staples if necessary. At the top, twist downwards and tuck into the hole at the top of the hat. Secure with more tape on the inside.

And that’s it! It will take you less than 5 minutes tops – with a fun and unique party hat!

Have a Happy New Year’s, everyone! I just love a glittery beginning!

xo

Carly

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DIY Sparkling Holiday Mocktail Recipe


Interesting fact about me: I don’t drink alcohol. Period. I have many reasons why, though one of the simplest to explain is that I hate the taste. I think the last time I even tried a tiny sip of alcohol was back in 2012 (peer pressure: not wanting to disappoint a neighbor who was begging me to try some sak√© she had just bought and I just didn’t feel comfortable saying no). But it’s just not something that I enjoy, and as a result I have to be super-picky at parties when there are alcoholic beverages around. So I’ve started playing with my own versions of alcoholic drinks – mocktails so to speak – to see if I could come up with some fun, festive nonalcoholic drinks that are just as delish (and I would argue even more so) than their alcoholic counterparts.

What is a Mocktail?

A mocktail is a “mock” cocktail – i.e., a cocktail without the alcohol. Perfect for those who don’t or can’t drink (and kids too!) it’s a great way to celebrate special occasions without feeling “left out.”

This particular mocktail takes a cue from a Fuzzy Navel (which I’ve never had) – but instead of orange juice it uses guava juice for sugary sweetness, tempered by lemon-lime soda to add some sour depth. The kids will love this drink because the presentation of it will make them feel oh-so-grownup…and the mocktail I staged for all these photos was promptly snapped up by my 12-year-old son the moment I was done (whose mouth was watering the whole time as he watched!).

Recipe for Nonalcoholic Sparkling Mocktail Holiday Drink

How to make the sparkling mocktail:

1. Pour colored sprinkles onto a plate wider than the rim of your glass.

2. Wet a paper towel generously, and wipe around the rim of the glass to moisten. Make sure you wipe up any water drips before the next step.

3. Turn the glass upside-down onto the plate, coating the rim with sprinkles. Turn right-side-up again and shake gently to get rid of any sprinkles that aren’t attached to the rim.

4. Use a measuring cup to mix the Sprite and guava juice in the right ratio. It may fizz a lot – and you may need to taste test to make sure you like the mix! More guava = sweeter, more Sprite = tangy-er.

5. Place a stirrer stick on top of the glass as a festive topper. (The kids will also like dunking it in the glass and licking the sweet juice off it!)

Celebrate your special occasion in sparkling, nonalcoholic style!

xo

Carly

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DIY Sparkling Crystal Holiday Table On KATU Afternoon Live Thursday!

Hi friends, tomorrow I’m going to be a guest on KATU’s Afternoon Live show again!

Back in February I shared a project for making your own DIY Gemstone-Topped Jewelry Boxes (for Valentine’s Day, pretty home decor, or any other special occasion!).

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing some affordable ways to creating a sparkling, crystal-inspired holiday table (for New Year’s Eve or other holidays)- this time with a number of great DIY projects that I hope we’ll have time for! Here’s a sneak preview of some of the projects I’ll be sharing (or try to, if time allows):

DIY Shooting Star Holiday Party Hats

DIY Sparkling Holiday Mocktail

DIY Sparkling Holiday Table Decor on the Cheap

If you’re in Oregon you can watch it on Channel 2 (or 16, depending on your cable provider). If you aren’t in Oregon or don’t have cable you can catch it live here:

WATCH KATU AFTERNOON LIVE – THURSDAY AT 3PM PST

Watch on Thursday, December 28 from 3PM-4PM PST for my 5-minute segment and see how to make your own chic sparkling holiday table! (Tune in at around 3:45PM PST or so for my segment)

xo

Carly

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Chic for the Week: Winter Workwear

Chic for the Week Winter Workwear Chic Creative Life recommendations

FTC Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, where if you click and make a purchase I receive a small commission. My full Disclosure Policy is here.

Winter is upon us here in Portland – and what comes with blustery winds, white flurries, and freezing walkways is cozy, comfy fashion. I’m a big fan of layers and usually am covered up neck to toes at work – and love this season as it presents great opportunity to get creative with the layering of my more lightweight items. Here are a couple pretty pieces that can be rotated into a winter work wardrobe with ease:

1. Choies Polychrome Colorblock Geometric Print Tie Belt Dress, $16.99

2. Modcloth Stargazing Splendor Blazer in Constellations, $89

3. Modcloth Charter School Turtleneck Sweater, $39

4. ASOS Suede Slouchy Shoulder Bag, $50

xo

Carly

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My New Stars and Stones Patterns for Chic Home Decor

Stars and Stones by Carly J. Cais repeating crystal and star patterns

Hello friends!

I’ve been hard at work adding more full-repeat patterns to my Spoonflower, Roostery, and Society6 shops. As many of you may know already I absolutely love astrophotgraphy (shooting stars…and by that I mean shooting stars with a camera…as in a photographic shoot…and if there happen to be “shooting stars” captured in the photo…well, all the better!)

Sparkle Dark Star Field Galaxy by stars + stones on Spoonflower

Sparkle Star Field Dark Galaxy Fabric (Spoonflower)

Many of my fabric patterns available at Spoonflower are photos taken by the NASA Hubble Telescope – where I’ve digitally altered the star fields to make them full-on repeats so that you could make an entire set of curtains, jumpsuit, or even SHEETS with these fabrics…with never-ending fields of stars, nebulas, and space dust. Though my own attempts at Milky Way and star photography don’t quite rival those of the Hubble Telescope…I do offer some of my star photography as art prints, tote bags, phone cases, and more!

Purple Milky Way Print by CarlyJCais on Society6

Deep Purple Milky Way Stars Canvas Print (Society6)

I shot the above photo in the middle of the night in Arco, Idaho when I took my family on an RV trip from our home in Oregon – having NEVER driven an RV before and somehow managing to drive 14.5 hours in one day to get there!

Carly J. Cais' rock and crystal collection

But in the past year or so I’ve started to get back into collecting rocks – I had a massive collection as a child but really had very little technical knowledge of minerals – and as an adult I’ve rediscovered it and started to take collecting and identifying rocks and minerals more seriously. If it’s even possible, I love taking macro photos of crystals even more than I do taking photos of stars! Because then making those photos into full crystal repeats is immensely challenging…and I LOVE a challenge.

So far, I’ve produced full repeating patterns of:

Gray Hematite Crystal Fabric by Carly J. Cais thumbnail

Grey Hematite Quartz

Sadly this is not actual hematite – but quartz that is fumed with silver titanium so it fuses to the outside of the quartz crystal. Purchase Grey Hematite Crystal fabrics, wallpaper, and wrapping paper on Spoonflower here.

Aqua Aurora Crystal Fabric by Carly J. Cais thumbnail

Aqua Aura Quartz

Another GOTCHA! crystal – this is also quartz, fumed with gold to create an aqua tint, resulting in an aurora borealis rainbow-like coating. Purchase Aqua Aura Crystal fabrics, wallpaper, and wrapping paper on Spoonflower here.

Light Blue Celestite Crystal Fabric by Carly J. Cais thumbnail

Light Blue Celestite Crystal

This is a true found-in-nature crystal – a beautiful pale blue with tiny crystalline structure throughout. It’s very brittle and I have to handle my specimen carefully! Purchase Light Blue Celestite Crystal fabrics, wallpaper, and wrapping paper on Spoonflower here.

I’m currently working on repeats of Apophyllite (white large crystals, like snow), Pyrite (brassy gold), Kyanite (blue and grey columnar crystals), and Mariposite (a rare veined green marble). Sign up for blog updates to see new patterns, or follow my shop on Spoonflower or follow me as an artist on Society6!

xo
Carly

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Chic Tip: Create New Holiday Traditions Around Giving Thanks

As I shared at the beginning of last year, a Gratitude Journal is a wonderful way to be mindful of things to be thankful for – to boost mood and increase happiness – and to stay aware of all of the things in life to be thankful for, despite things not always going our way. Sometimes by the time the day of holiday celebration rolls around we can be completely exhausted from the big flurry of activity getting ready for the occasion – and it can be hard not to lose sight of why we did it all in the first place.

So for this time – and all going forward – I’m proposing a break from the rush of activity and creative exhaustion – to just try to savor and appreciate the moment more, and not push ourselves too hard. To bring gratitude back, and do away with forcing perfect. The holidays particularly are a wonderful time to begin this tradition for your family, friends, and loved ones – and even yourself to gain some peace of mind! Here a few ideas for creating your own tradition for giving thanks:

5 Easy Ways to Create a Holiday Tradition of Giving Thanks

  • Use a beautiful journal, diary, or notebook (try this sequin guestbook one for a super high-end look – or this gold foiled notebook set for chic and simple) and have guests at your special occasion write one thing they are thankful for. Add to it every year, and read previous year’s entries aloud to the new guests.
  • Have each guest write what they are most thankful for on a slip of paper and drop into a vase in the center of the table. Go around the table and have each person pull a slip of paper out and read it aloud.
  • Have each guest write what they are most thankful on the back of someone else’s place card – when your guests sit at the table they will find a secret snippet of gratitude on the underside of their place cards.
  • Having kids at your celebration? Have them each draw or write things they are thankful for onto paper placemats you use for both the kids – and the adults! – at the meal.
  • Before the meal join hands and have each person share something they are grateful about regarding one of the other guests there as a heartwarming start to the celebration.

Do you have any holiday traditions around which you emphasize giving thanks? Please share!

xo
Carly

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Wardrobe Rehab – How to Clean a Nylon Handbag

Well..technically a laptop case…but we’ll just call it a handbag for today’s purposes, yes?

I’m a firm believer in using the possessions you have to utter exhaustion: until they are tattered, destroyed specimens of what they once were. Get good use out of it (until it falls apart!) would be my motto.

My first laptop case is still on its last legs (so I only use that around the house and where no one sees it). I needed a laptop case for the computer I use for work, which is smaller than my personal computer, and which I have to carry to and from work constantly.

I spied this amaaaahzing Renny Drive spotted laptop case by Kate Spade (it’s now sadly sold out everywhere but one does show up from time to time on eBay). It’s professional, chic, feminine, memorable, and goes with just about anything I’m wearing to the office, or casually. I purchased it about a year and a half ago and have been using it ever since to tote around my work computer. It’s such a light color though – that it’s like a grime magnet, and I’ve been stumped on how to clean this nylon laptop case for awhile – because it’s nylon and because it has stiffeners and linings that really shouldn’t be thrown into the washing machine. So..

What is Nylon?

Nylon is a synthetic polymer (and actually was the first commercially successful synthetic thermoplastic polymer – thank you Wikipedia!) Though there are a few different types of nylon, nylon used in clothing and accessories is heat-set in terms of pattern and color, and water-resistant – and can be dyed using acid dyes.

You may have a nylon bag in your closet – or a pair of nylon shoes or an accessory – that gets dingy and defies being cleaned (because hey, it’s nylon). I’ve discovered the most awesome trick for getting those grungy nylon accessories sparkling again.

How to Clean a Nylon Handbag (or How to Clean Nylon in general)

after of how to clean a nylon bag

Everywhere I looked on how to clean nylon recommended either throwing it in the washing machine with a milk liquid detergent, or spot-clean with liquid soap and water. Nope and nope – I found these methods useless for the amount of dirt on my laptop case. (Plus you should never put a handbag with linings or stiff sides into the washing machine – submerging in water and agitating could permanently damage the structure of the bag.) Here’s the top-secret, ONLY way to clean a nylon accessory and get it good as new:

You Need:
dirty nylon item  //  Kiwi Sport heavy duty sneaker cleaner for light-colored sneakers  //  rag  //  small amount of water (not pictured)

How to clean your nylon accessory with Kiwi Sport sneaker cleaner:


1. Squeeze a generous amount of sneaker cleaner onto a dirty area, using the bristle brush of the applicator to scrub the cleaner into the nylon weave in a circular motion.

2. Wait a few minutes to let the cleaner penetrate. Use a clean rag to buff the cleaner into the nylon in a circular motion.

3. Dampen your rag with a bit of water, and shammy that cleanser (and the grime) away!

Note: Always do a spot test of the sneaker cleaner on the item before using it in a conspicuous area.

Allow your accessory to dry, et voila!

Your nylon handbag, laptop case, accessory what-have-you…now has a new lease on life!

This method may not work perfectly (and I was left with a few stubborn areas of dirt, especially on the edges of the case), but for a quick, useful solution this can’t be beat!

xo

Carly

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Welcome to Chic Creative Life!

Hello friends!

You may notice something different around here: that yes, I’ve finally switched over to Chic Creative Life and my new site (9 months in the making) has gone live!

There are a couple kinks I’m still straightening out but for the moment, welcome, look around, check it out, and tell me what you think!

I’m thrilled to have you here – and can’t wait to share with you new content, ideas, and creativity for an ultimately chic, creative, life!

xo

Carly

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