It’s More Than Just the Dress

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

With the dress procured, what else to wear was still up for debate.

Let’s start from the bottom and head up.

When I tried on my dress I was wearing 3″ heels (pretty standard for me) and they were just about perfect for the existed hem. While they are not the shoes I will be wearing on the day of the wedding, they at least gave me an idea of what I needed to look for.

Have you ever wondered how much room your shoe collection spans?

Have you ever wondered how much room your shoe collection spans? (personal photo)

To say that I have a thing for shoes would be putting it mildly. I haven’t counted recently (there’s been no good reason to), but the last time I wondered enough to do so I counted 85 pairs, and I’ve bought several since then. I’m definitely in the triple digits by now.  And most of them are heels because I find it painful to wear flats for more than a day. (I have Achilles tendinitis in both heels that developed several years ago, amusingly enough while I was wearing flats a lot thanks the multiple dance practices a week–usually it’s caused by wearing heels too often, not the other way around.) I also just love the confidence boost a good pair of heels can offer, and definitely have my favorites for when there’s an important meeting at the office.

So when I considered what I wanted in a pair of wedding shoes, I knew it needed a decent heel, preferably a platform for stability, closed toe, and an ankle strap to keep me from accidentally walking out of them–security is key! It was a while before I found my ideal wedding shoes, and for a while something like these (found via Offbeat Bride) were definitely a contender.

Images via

I’m definitely on the colored-shoe train, but not because it’s trendy: I just can’t stand white shoes (fallout from surviving the ’80s) and don’t want to buy a pair of shoes that I’ll never wear again.

The thing is, I have plenty of shoes around our wine color, but none of them are comfortable for an hour plus of standing around OR they’re way too tall. So I think I’m leaning a bit more towards cream or brown. I think it’s just a case of I’ll know it when I see it. Which is exactly the case when I found these Madden Girl shoes via Zappos.

image via Zappos

image via Zappos

I took them for a test-run at a charity event in April and I almost counted them out. They’re the first shoes I’ve worn in ages that rubbed blisters on my little toes–definitely not something I’d count in the pro column. But then I tried them on with the dress (which, by the way, still fits perfectly a year later–no alteration fees in my future!) and they were the perfect height. Unless something else comes along that’s even better I think I might just add some moleskin or other friction barrier to the littlest piggies and go with it.

As to the rest of the ensemble, I’m not planning to don a veil, so there’s the choice of hair decor to decide (remember, the girls loved me in a tiara, so that’s certainly an option). I’ll wear the journey necklace Mr. Road Trip gifted me on our first Christmas together and maybe a dressier version of my usual hoop earrings, so jewelry is mostly sorted out.

There’s also the matter of the jacket or sweater to cover my shoulders. I spent part of last winter knitting a cropped cardigan as a test for my wedding-day ensemble (patterns seldom work for me as-written, I always have to use the knit-and-see approach), only to find it matched the shade of ivory of my dress pretty much spot on! It still needed a little bit of dressing up, though, which brings me to: the bling.

I love the trend of sparkly belts, so plan to make one for my dress in cream beads and tiny ivory pearls. I’m also considering some trim to peek out just under the folded cuff along the top of my dress, and then edging the sweater’s neckline with the same beading so everything looks like a set, not just disparate parts.


The beaded neckline of one of my favorite shirts | personal photo

This shirt I’ve had for ages, and it’s one of my favorite pieces to wear. It’s a Henly-style top, but instead of buttons, both plackets are covered with this piled-on beading and that’s what I’m thinking will look best for the accents on my outfit. It’s a fairly simple technique, it’s just a matter of assembling the supplies and getting it done (tutorial to come).

What pieces are you still hunting up for your bridal ensemble?

Project | And Yes, They’re Paper


For those who haven’t subscribed to the Gauche Alchemy monthly newsletter (and just why not?), I’m thrilled to get to share a project I’ve had to keep close to the vest for more than a month! I know, the suspense was killing me, too–I hate keeping fun stuff from you guys. Even if you did see the project in the newsletter, I’ll be showing step-by-step photos of the process, so it’s worth a peek if you’re curious how I put these awesome Paper Brooches together.

If you recall my altered make-up box, I used  the Intricate Design stamp for the faux-hinges and I believe I mentioned that  I’d had other plans for that stamp to begin with. This is what I had in mind when I ordered that stamp.

After stamping the image on colored card stock and embossing some of each in gold and silver,

I antiqued the embossing with some metallic rub-ons, applied with a cotton swab.

Antiquing the embossing with metallic rub-ons

Since I wanted to hang chains from the motifs, I wide-trimmed each design,

Wide-trimming the motifs before punching the holes

punched a few strategic holes (3 sets along the bottom for the horizontal brooch, one on each side and at the bottom for the vertical) with a 1/8″ hole punch. After that it was time to fussy cut the images, leaving little circles around the punched holes.

One the holes are punched, trim about 1/8" around them

I cut different lengths of jewelry chain and used needle-nose and round-nose pliers to open the links, slip them into their holes, and close them back up. (You could also use jump rings–much easier if you’re stringing multiple chains together, like I did with the silver brooch).

Adding chains for movement and insterest

After that it was all about the decorations. The beads for the silver brooch came from the Black Out mixed media color kit, while the flat-backed gem and coppery brads for the gold brooch came from the It’s All Gravy Baby brown color kit. Also on the silver brooch is a Tim Holtz button (I punched a hole in the center of the paper background to allow for the shank and used clear glue to secure it to the front).

Added buttons, gems, brads and beads to jazz it up

To help the chains on the gold brooch hang correctly, I added a beaded spacer bar between the 2 outer sets–the gold-tone bi-cones added a little sparkle while also serving a purpose.

Beaded spacers to keep the chains hanging correctly

All that was left was to add the pin-backs and let them dry.

The backs of the cards, just about ready to wear

On my next go-round–because I do plan on making more– I think I’ll reinforce the back of the pin with another layer or two of card stock, just to make sure the brooch can stand up to lots of wear. (Probably only necessary if you’re a klutz, like me!) The gold/coppery brooch went to a friend as a birthday gift and was very well received, the silver one I plan to keep for myself.

Arm Yourself in Sparkles

64 Arts

Of all the jewelry I own, bracelets are the least practical for daily wear. For the most part they’re best left for dressing up when all you have to do is pose prettily.

Think about it:

  • Bangles clatter and jangle against each other
  • Charm bracelets snag on delicate skirts and fluffy sweaters
  • and practically all of them become uncomfortable when you spend 9 hours a day typing on a computer keyboard!

Ribbon and bead cuff with daisies

Which is why I’ve lately become enamored of cuffs. Cuff bracelets tend to be low-profile, especially on the underside of the wrists, which is good for typing and they stay put perfectly. The trick, it seems, is to find ones that fit correctly but that’s easy enough to do if you make it yourself.

You know there was going to be a project, right?

Beaded Daisy Cuff

What you’ll need:

  • Cuff form
  • Ribbon
  • Straight pins
  • Needle and thread (regular and beading)
  • Beads
  • Fray check (or other seam sealer)
Starting the ribbon weaving for the cuff Draw out a long length of ribbon (a yard or a bit more) and loop it through the center of the frame. Weave one end in and out around the frame a few wraps and then secure it with a pin before continuing.
Wrapping the ends of the cuff frame At each end wrap the ribbon around the curved bit before weaving in the final stripe. Pin it secure and then stitch along the curve to keep the ends in place. Dot the knots with seal sealer as well as the cut end of the ribbon to keep things from fraying. Repeat on the other end.
Adding the beaded daisy to the cuff Now, this is a pretty enough cuff on it’s own but I wanted to make something a little more decorative so I added 4 beaded daisies scattered along the length. 

Each daisy starts with an e-bead center, 5 petals of 2 seed and 2 bugle beads each and 3 pollen clusters made of 5 very tiny beads.

With the edging and cluster beading Still not enough and not entirely happy about the shifting of the ribbons along the frame, I added a line of beads along the perimeter of the cuff, just inside the frame. Stitching every 4th bead with a backstitch helps the entire thing hold together. (Make sure to leave spaces for the daisy petals that overlap the outer edges, otherwise the petals with scrunch together.)

Finally I added a cluster of 3 beads between each flower to finish the cuff. Trim all waste threads as close as possible and dot all  knots with seam sealer to prevent losing any beads as you wear it.

Having the frame made this a quick project. Another option is to use bracelet-sized memory wire (it comes in oval, too, which is great for cuffs–I’ll be experimenting with that later) and make your own frame, either spacing the ends apart by a beaded bar or joining them in points at the end with interlocked loops. Using ribbon for the body of the cuff means this bracelet isn’t going to be scratchy against sensitive skin.

From Rings to Ropes

64 Arts

Not only did they differentiate between ear ornaments and necklaces, they didn’t even put the two one after the other. As much as I like going in order, it makes more sense (to me, at least) to go straight into the rest of the jewelry world and skip slightly ahead to…


The 19th Art: Jewelry

These are of two kinds: necklaces ornamented with jewels or ornaments worn around the hips, used mostly for the theater.

Well, I think there’s a whole lot more to jewelry than necklaces and hip belts–more than two types of necklaces even!

First there’s length: do you want to wear a snug, choker-style or one that drapes just to that delicate hollow at the base of your throat. There’s also longer lengths and what will look best depends on your own size plus the neckline of the shirt or dress you’re wearing.

Next is style: chain links or beaded (or both)? single-stranded or multi? focal bead or pendant (or neither)? There are everyday necklaces that go with everything, artsy necklaces you wear when you want to be noticed or make a statement and the fancy stuff that comes out on special occasions.

And then there’s the details like colors and materials and all sorts of other things that determine whether this necklace goes with that outfit or your mood.

I’ve got a few projects to show you over the next couple of weeks (including a hip-belt! they’re not just for the theater!) but if you just can’t wait, check out these articles I wrote during my eHow days:

How to Do Viking Chain Knitting: this method of weaving chain makes impressive necklaces and gives you something to do with all those leftover allen wrenches from your last IKEA purchase.

How to Crochet with Wire and Beads: shows you the basics of forming beaded crochet bracelets and a bonus earring pattern that I designed by accident but love to wear.

How to Bead on a Loom: you might find the loom in the kids’ crafts section of the store, but there are some amazing bracelets, necklaces and more than can be made with it that are far from child’s play.

If I Had $100 for Every Proposal I’ve Had…

64 Arts

I could pay off my two lowest-balance store cards.

No. Wait. If we include all the times the first guy asked me after he took it back, mid-planning-the-wedding, I could pay off my third store card.


What have we learned so far?

  1. Scraps has been proposed to lots. (6 engagements before I was 26)
  2. Scraps recently totaled up her credit card debt. Ouch. (I can’t be the only one who glances at the account balance and concentrates on the available credit, right?)

And even the guys that didn’t propose, they liked to give out jewelry. Several of them liked rings, especially, and up until a recent purge of my bauble collection, I had all of them stored away.

I have a motto: Why waste good jewelry?

Of course, what makes a ring “good” or not, is largely a matter of taste.


Rings on a Mandrel

My Preciouses

Tastes Change

Growing up, I wasn’t the girl who fantasized about her wedding as much as I knew what sort (or shape) of diamond I wanted. Not something too fancy, a simple solitaire in a marquise shape on a gold band and I would be a happy girl.

The first of those engagement rings I received? Pear-shaped.

It wasn’t quite right, and neither was the boy. Though I wouldn’t believe it for quite some time and a repeat of the situation. Weren’t we all that way, once?

I did get that marquise-shaped diamond, eventually. Still have it, in fact, and one of these days I might get around to having it reset in something I’ll be able to wear.

Repeat after me: Why waste good jewelry?

But these days not only am I less enamored of diamonds in general (though, being my birthstone, it’s never a truly bad choice) but the “little boat” shape of the marquise does very little for me. In fact, I seem to be gravitating more to a square-shaped stones (maybe because it’s a shape not currently in my personal inventory).

Thinking Outside the Diamond

Thanks to DeBeers, a diamond is what most people expect when marriage is on the table and, let’s face it, society is changing but the engagement/wedding ring is still the most important piece of jewelry in many a girl’s life.

But there are options, ladies, and some worth serious consideration–even if you’re shopping for yourself, just because. We’re going to borrow those 4 c’s of diamond selection and take a walk on the wilder side of finger-wear.

Cut: Not the Same as Shape, But Who Cares?

In diamonds, cut refers to the number of planes and surfaces on the finished stone and is incredibly regimented. If you’re not shopping for a faceted stone or a major investment, cut isn’t going to matter as much to you as the shape.

Do you know what makes some of those stones so expensive? (Besides, of course, the marketing campaigns that convince us certain stones are “acceptable” and others aren’t.) The amount of work that goes into them (number of cuts) and the risk taken every time a cut is made–all that risk and money to take parts of it away!

That’s why, if you want more bang for your buck, looking at less-processed stones may fit your bill. You can find many semi-precious stones in all the major shapes (round, square, pear/teardrop, marquise, oval, etc.) as well as in unfinished states.

Color: All the Rainbow and Then Some!

While diamonds do come in other colors than white/clear (I’ve been known to drool over those chocolate diamonds, myself), they’re not as common as the clear version. With so many other options out there it seems almost foolhardy to limit yourself to just one stone.

Aside from the color of the stone(s), let’s talk about the settings and bands, as well. Gold and silver are your basics, with platinum making up the holy metal trinity. I used to wear gold pretty much all the time (and there used to be a rule about not mixing gold and silver but I think most folks ignore that these days) but something always bugged me: I could see the difference in color between 10K, 14K and 18K yellow gold.

And they clashed.

So I switched, several years back, to all silver (or white gold), all time time. Because sterling silver has pretty much one designation if it’s worth wearing: .925 and it all looks the same.

And, too, for the buyer on a budget, silver prices remain much more reasonable compared to the wildly escalating gold market.

Clarity: Know What You Want and Why

Again, in diamonds, clarity is a specific measure of the “identifying characteristics” of the stone–namely blemishes (outside) and inclusions (inside). And, of course, the fewer flaws the more valuable it is because the more rare is it.

But everyone has flaws, why shouldn’t our jewelry?

Those so-called “flaws” are what make us unique and a few inclusions here and a scuff or two there show a stone that is worn and loved and has been through a life.

Take my mainstay ring: the big teardrop lapis lazuli. Pyrite (fools gold) is a part of all lapis but many jewelers try to minimize the amount present. When I shop for pieces for myself, I’m on the lookout for the pyrite streaks–they show me it’s less likely to be a fake if present–and the deepest blue I can find.

I want a ring with some character, one I’m not afraid to wear for fear of messing it up. Kinda like the people I surround myself with: they’re all characters!

Carat: Size Matters, Am I Right?

Ah, the old quantity vs quality debate.

I think miniatures are amazing, truly breathtaking when done well. But small stones? Those chips are hardly worth the money you pay to have them set.

Those little diamond chips you see in some jewelry? Each one is a point (roughly 1/100 of a carat) and their resale value is absolutely pitiful. They don’t even sparkle enough on their own, they have to be set with plenty light-reflecting material around it to give the illusion of more carats than are really pleasant.

As much as I appreciate delicate craftsmanship, when I’m looking for a ring I’m looking to make a statement so I want something with a little size to it–either the stone or the setting or both. This is why I love that cocktail rings have come back in style in a big way.

Rings on Paper

Rings on Her Fingers

Rings on Her Fingers

For those of you who know I draw comics, too, you probably won’t be surprised that I made a comic (though not a mockery) of my ring-centric history with men. To understand just how I ended up so many proposals (but only 2 marriages and the divorces to match) and why Todd was told (in no uncertain terms) to never buy me a ring, head over to Cocktail Hour to read Rings on Her Fingers.

And, for those of you who’d like a signed copy of that story (professionally printed, 24 pages plus cover, I have about 16 in stock and no immediate plans for another print run) I’d be more than happy to sell you one. They are $5, payable by PayPal, and include mailing.

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