Wedding files: DIY satin belt


My wedding dress fit well off the rack, except it really needed some waist definition.


So I bought a spool of 2″ wide polyester satin ribbon from Jo-Ann Fabrics and tied it into a sash.


It pulled in the waist really well! But the trailing ends didn’t quite mesh with this style of dress, or at least my personal taste. It needed something more polished and tailored. So I decided to turn the sash into a belt.


Want to make a satin belt of your own? I didn’t take photos of the process, but if you have basic hand-sewing skills and remember to try on the belt periodically throughout the process, you’ll hopefully find my notes easy enough to follow.

You’ll need:

  • A length of satin ribbon (your waist size plus several inches)
  • A length of medium or heavy weight fusible interfacing
  • A hook and bar, or a few hooks and eyes
  • Thread that matches the ribbon
  • A hand-sewing needle
  • An iron with a steam setting
  • A press cloth (scrap fabric to keep interfacing goo off your iron)

Here’s how:

  1. Choose your length:
    • Hold the ribbon snug around your waist where the belt should sit.
    • Place a pin to mark the point where the end overlaps.
    • Add 4″ past the pin and then trim the ribbon.
  2. Strengthen your belt:
    • Make a mark or place a pin 2″ from one end, and 1″ from the other.
    • Cut a piece of interfacing the length you have marked (you are leaving the ends un-interfaced), and slightly narrower than the ribbon width.
    • Apply the interfacing to the back side of the ribbon between your marks, following the package directions.
  3. Attach the hook:
    • Fold the shorter end in half so that the raw edge meets the interfacing.
    • Fold over again so the raw edge is enclosed.
    • Sew around all four sides of the folded part with a running stitch.
    • Place the hook on the front of the belt toward the very edge, with the hook part pointing toward the rest of the belt.
    • Attach the hook by stitching through all three layers. The stitches on the back will be against your dress, so they won’t be visible.
  4. Attach the bar:
    • Fold the longer end in half so that the raw edge meets the interfacing, and pin in place.
    • Place the bar at the center of the folded part, on the front side of the ribbon.
    • Attach the bar by stitching through both layers of ribbon. The interfaced part is not involved yet.
    • Fold the ribbon over again so the raw edge is enclosed and your stitches are hidden.
    • Sew around all four sides of the folded part with a running stitch.
  5. Try on your new belt!

Final thoughts and tips:

  • Consider adding more length to the bar end, and sewing on two bars an inch apart. This will allow you to loosen the belt after dinner! I actually planned to do this, but mistakenly didn’t account for enough ribbon to cover the hook. You can see in the top photo that my bar had to be attached at least a half inch from the end so the hook didn’t peek out.
  • When you’re ready to wear it, consider basting (attaching with temporary stitches) the belt to your dress at a few key points. The interfacing made my belt a bit grippy on the back, but it still shifted upward quite a bit as I wore it, and I had to keep tugging it into place.
  • If you’d like to cover the overlapping part, consider adding a bow. Tilly and the Buttons has a great bow belt tutorial. You can wear the bow either in front or in back.



While I was wedding planning, I found a great website: It offers sane wedding advice and a lot more besides. My favorite essays there deal with balanced relationships, thoughtful decision-making, women in the workplace, and entrepreneurship. Today there’s a discussion about roadblocks — the real barriers and self-imposed excuses that keep us from achieving what we really want in business and in life.

You all know about my goal to become a full-time freelancer. It’s been almost a year since I first posted about it. Today I have one regular client and a few Elance jobs under my belt, but other than the tax bills I just paid (OUCH) there’s not much evidence of progress. So what’s standing in my way? What are my roadblocks?

I’ll be honest: there’s a lot of fear. Fear of leaving my team in the lurch when I quit. Fear of failing to earn enough money. Fear of networking. Even fear of too much success — attracting so many clients that I get overwhelmed with work and can’t execute any of it well, ruining all my contacts and overworking myself into misery.

In the past, the best way for me to overcome roadblocks has been through research and preparation. Entering new situations unprepared makes me incredibly anxious. So I have learned to set myself up for success by picturing in detail how things will happen. If it’s a job interview, I can try on the outfit I’ll wear and drive to the location the weekend before, just to make sure I’m familiar with the place. If it’s my wedding, I can fill out the license application ahead of time so I don’t make a poorly considered choice on the spot (like my coworker who wasn’t prepared to decide her name change when she went to get her marriage license — she thought she had until the wedding date). If it’s woodworking, I can sign up for a workshop at Home Depot before using my new power tools at home.

The problem comes when research and preparation stop me from taking action at all. I’ve been reading articles and books on freelancing for several years now. I’ve created budgets in interactive Excel spreadsheets. I’ve done actual freelance assignments for actual clients. Still, I don’t feel prepared to take the leap.

Some practical roadblocks did clear last month when I married Dan. As his legal spouse, I’ll be able to go on his health insurance policy when I quit, at a much lower rate than private insurance. I also get the official commitment that he can support me financially if my income starts out slow. What’s his is mine, even more than it was before, and that’s really reassuring. Plus, my freelancing business and website carry my full name. I had worried about the problem of rebranding myself if I married and changed my name long after my business was established. Now, though, I can make that transition while the business is still in its baby stage. I’ve already bought the new URL and started working on a site migration plan.

My biggest remaining roadblock seems to be the false belief that I can and should be 100% prepared for everything. Of course nobody advises abandoning your day job without any safety net. But maybe I’ve done my due diligence. Maybe it’s time to gather my knowledge and climb over this roadblock with confidence, even though I can’t clearly see the other side.


It’s a done deal — Dan and I were married last Friday!


Our parents and siblings came out for a long weekend. It actually poured rain most of the days due to a rare storm system — boo. Still, we had tons of fun together and there were enough clear patches for us to go to the zoo and the ocean, play giant jenga and cornhole, and introduce them to our friends over s’mores and games.


On the wedding day my dad made my bouquet from grocery store flowers, and even though my hair appointment ran super late due to a traffic jam, we all made it to the courthouse (barely) on time.


A mumbly judge led us through the world’s fastest civil ceremony. Afterward, I kept saying “I can’t believe we’re already married! That was so quick!!”


The rain let up for a few professional portraits…


And then we were off to a delicious dinner at a La Jolla restaurant.


Dan surprised me by carrying me across the threshold when we got home — he’s secretly a romantic, aww.


We aren’t honeymooning right away, as we’re saving time off for a bigger family celebration in June in Ohio, and then hopefully an international trip within the next year. So it was back to work on Monday… and my firm kicked off our website redesign project on Tuesday! No rest for the newlywed.

Next I’ll be sharing a few wedding planning posts (though there wasn’t much to plan!) and also stay tuned for professional photos in a few weeks!

Scintillating scotoma

This happened to me again just now: It starts as a blurry spot that obscures the center of the vision and then grows outward concentrically in a ring or crescent shape until it finally disappears after 20 minutes or so. It affects both sides of vision, as it is apparently something that happens in the brain, not the eyes.

I don’t like it at all. It keeps me from effectively using the computer, reading, driving, etc for up to a half hour. Fortunately it doesn’t cause any pain, only visual disturbance. Various articles I’ve read explain that it’s related to migraine. They say there’s no need to seek treatment unless you’re experiencing pain. Indeed, there is apparently no treatment for the visual effect.

It has been happening to me every few months for probably 10 years. The first time, I was working at Michaels and I thought I might have to go to the hospital. But it faded quickly, and I looked it up online afterward.

This is an excellent depiction of what it feels like (focus on the center of the image):

Bodies are so weird.

Have you ever experienced anything like this?

DIY Giant Jenga

Today I made my very first solo woodworking project: giant jenga, a backyard toppling tower game! I worked on it all morning and finished just in time to take it to a Super Bowl party.


The first time I played giant jenga was with a friend at Hess Brewery here in San Diego. It was so much fun that I wanted to have a set of my own for backyard parties.


This giant wood block stacking game instructable and giant jenga tutorial made it seem pretty simple to DIY. In fact, it seemed like a perfect project to get familiar with my new circular saw — the first power tool I’ve owned, other than my trusty cordless drill/driver.

First, because I wanted to be super prepared and safe while sawing stuff, I read an in-depth article about how to use a circular saw. Then I went to a free workshop at Home Depot a couple weeks ago to try some power tools under supervision.


The workshop was a bit ramshackle but it helped me feel comfortable enough to try it on my own at home. With Dan looking on, I did a test run on some scrap wood.


It worked! So I went to pick up a carload of 8-foot 2x4s. Yes, they actually all fit in the Prius with the trunk closed. Miracle car. (Six were for the giant jenga, and the other four are for my next project… cornhole, of course!)


I rigged up a work table on the back patio using some metal sawhorses we found in our garage, a scrap of plywood left behind by a handyman, and these awesome quick-grip clamps Dan gave me for my birthday.


I measured and cut the first 10.5″ block. Then I used that block as a marker — cutting off each piece before marking the next, to avoid cumulative measurement errors.


Cutting 54 pieces took less than an hour… I was feeling pretty accomplished.


But sanding them took three times as long. Even with an orbital sander. I used rough 60-grit sandpaper on all the sides and corners. After play-testing the set today, it looks like I’ll need to go over them again with a finer grit.


Side note: Why didn’t I buy a sander years ago?!! It only cost $30 and would have saved me so much time on so many projects! Like the time I refinished a dining table by hand, sanding it down every evening after work for a week.

I’m so proud of this project, simple though it may be. As a finishing touch I might decorate the ends with some colorful paint or stamp the sides with a monogram or label — what do you think? Then they’ll be ready to finish with Minwax wood paste for dampness protection and a bit of luster.


Coastal La Jolla was buried in dense fog yesterday.


Everything felt quiet, blanketed, damp.


But the sun shone in a clear sky just a quarter-mile inland.


Such a striking lunchtime walk!

Backyard blooms

When we toured this house in September, there was lots of greenery, but nothing in bloom. So winter has brought some incredible surprises to our yard!

The tree outside our bedroom window has fruit! Any suggestions which citrus it could be?


Another tree has gorgeous pink blossoms.


The vine against the garage surprised us with enormous trumpet-shaped flowers.



Fuchsia bushes line the front of the house.


We have two different types of berry bushes.



Tiny white flowers came unexpectedly from a rubbery succulent.


And our valiant Meyer lemon tree, which we brought from our last place, is showing signs it might survive after all.


Winter is beautiful in San Diego!