Alina Sewing and Design

MYU’s New Digs

Hello, friends!

This post is SUCH an exciting one for me! I’ve been working my tail off for the last month and a half to recreate, re-dream and build My Yellow Umbrella. At the beginning of October, Cowboy left to spend the month in San Diego, so I sat myself down and started listing all of the “dreams” I had for this little blog of mine…all of the “someday” items. I saw:

  • a new, self-hosted/revamped/clean (for my picture-heavy posts) web site (and oh, the work that would entail),
  • an Etsy shop (and OH, the work that would entail),
  • all-new, seamless branding across all areas of MYU,
  • including…beautiful custom hang tags and business cards to hand to people every time “what I do” comes up in a conversation,
  • a place to send people who wanted custom upholstery and sewing.

Basically…I wanted to see all of the things I do (blogging, upholstery, sewing jobs, Etsy shop) housed in one place (the web site) and I wanted the branding for all of it to be seamless. And it had to be beautiful. And I wanted to move everything I liked over from blogger and then leave the rest behind, starting fresh to create something clean and beautiful (according to my tastes, obviously…I realize not everyone loves a plain white page) so that the photographs of my work could really be the stars.

Fast forward to this very moment; the Etsy shop has been launched, business cards have arrived and are regularly being handed out, I’ve re-branded every piece of all of it and last, but not least…you’re reading the first blog post originally posted to Thanks to John of and, who has spent the last week helping me work out some of the technical side of running a web site, and was up very late last night (we were working from opposite chronological directions and there were lots of “which post are you on?” e-mails as we approached, and then passed, midnight) manually putting redirects in place for every single blog page and post…we’re live a day early. Our work is not done…no, now comes all of the optimizing and oiling the blog machine to make things move efficiently. So, you might see a few tweaks here and there over the next couple of weeks, but most of the cosmetics are final (so, hopefully you just start seeing things move quickly, if any difference at all!).

So, without further ado, I welcome you to the new-and-improved My Yellow Umbrella, Blog + Shop. I’m so excited to see all of these little dreams becoming reality…in one place. The amount of excitement and pride I feel right now makes all of the late nights, countless work hours and monetary investment worth it.

And most importantly, I need to close with a thank you to all of you who make this possible for me to dream about. The friends, family and the dedicated we’ve-never-met-in-real-life readers…all of your support is what takes these dreams from potential to reality!

So, thank you. And welcome. Have a look around, let me know if you notice anything amiss, and don’t hesitate to offer feedback if something’s really just not working for you (I’m talking about , “hey, you should add more information to this page because that would be helpful and less confusing” and not, “hey, your new web site is UGGGGLY!” hahaha! 😀 )


P.S. I’ll be back later with a new product launch and some very exciting sales for the holiday weekend (Black Friday + Small Business Saturday + Cyber Monday, OH MY!)


Lately, that’s what has stayed front of mind as I think about the upcoming year. Simplicity. Spurred on by some time unplugged (I’ll get to that in the second part of this novel) and a domino effect of sorts started by making my own…everything.

First, it started with going “no-poo” (mentioned here) back in November of 2011. Then, I proceeded to watch every documentary available on Netflix that was related to or was about organic farming vs. conventional farming, the effect of chemicals in the home (household cleaners and beauty products alike) and/or the how the ecosystem works. Then, we started an organic garden a couple of months ago. 
Then, I read Homegrown and Handmade: a Practical Guide to Self-Reliant Living, by Deborah Niemann. I checked it out from the library, but it’s helpful enough that I would consider it well worth purchasing. Right now, I’m in the middle of Skinny Bitch: Home, Beauty & Style: A No-Nonsense Guide to Cutting the Crap Out of Your Life for a Better Body and a Kinder World, by Kim Barnouin (disclaimer: this book is EXTREMELY informative, but this author is well-known for her colorful language! Consider yourself warned.). In my books-to-read pile is: The Gorgeously Green Diet: How to Live Lean and Green, by Sophie Uliano; The Green Beauty Guide: Your Essential Resource to Organic and Natural Skin Care, Hair Care, Makeup, and Fragrances, and Green Beauty Recipes: Easy Homemade Recipes to Make Your Own Organic and Natural Skincare, Hair Care and Body Care Products, both by Julie Gabriel.
A few days ago, I bought a water bath canner (I’d been waiting for it to go on sale, which it finally did) and, after a trip to the farmer’s market, spent part of my weekend making and canning pasta/pizza sauce from scratch with farmer’s market (mostly organic) freshly-picked whole tomatoes. Next up is jams. I’m coming close to perfecting my bread recipe (low in sugar and oil, 100% whole wheat + ground flax seed and still beautifully hearty and light at the same time). Last week, I learned how to make my own fresh almond butter and granola (which goes beautifully with the batch of greek yogurt I make every week).
You get the picture.
I’ve been learning how to rid our home of chemicals and processed foods. I’ve thrown away countless bottles of half-used lotions, creams, cleaners, etc. My rule of thumb is that if I can’t safely consume it, I’ll think long and hard before I use it to clean our house, clothes (the occasional bleach cycle is the exception) or our bodies. My cabinets are becoming clutter-free, my recipes are becoming something I’m proud to serve to people and my beauty “routine” has become so, so simple.
No, I haven’t made my life easier; it would be [a whole lot] easier (and cheaper on the food side sometimes–not all of the time) to buy processed foods, pre-made cleaners and beauty products. But my life is simpler for the mere fact that I know what I am consuming and/or lathering all over my skin and hair. And I’m healthier for it.
So why is this important to me? 
  1. Because, first of all, you can’t take in this much information about these topics without feeling a sense of need to change how you’re living and treating your body. 
  2. Second, it’s important to me to keep both myself and my husband healthy (as much of it is in my control, anyway…which you know isn’t any at all, if you believe in the same God I do)…and because someday, babies will be welcomed into the home we’re working to build. And so it’s important to me to begin making small changes every week to clean up our habits so that by the time that season of life rolls around, I’ll feel a little more, in theory, “ready.” I want to have these recipes (for home cleaners and the like) down and the habits made so that it will be easy to see through in the long run.
  3. I AM actually saving money by making bread, granola, greek yogurt, household cleaners, “shampoo” and “conditioner,” lotion bars, deodorant, pasta sauce, pizza dough, etc. from scratch. I’m investing my time, but I’m saving A LOT of money. Because of that, I feel much more at ease about buying the organic versions of the “dirty dozen” fruits/vegetables.
  4. Finally, because there’s a great sense of pride that goes along with “making your own.”
So here’s the thing: I realize that the Lord has recently placed me within a season of life that allows me more free time…or at least an extremely flexible schedule, and we don’t have littles yet, which makes these changes and ventures 100% easier. 
My heart’s desire is to be responsible and to be a good steward with the flexibility he’s given me. I want to build a clean and safe home, but I also want to pour into the lives of the people around us. You may or may not know this, but Cowboy and I will be leaving Wichita to move across the country next May-June to begin residency at a naval hospital. Away from our church, our families and our [in some cases, lifelong] friends. So, as a result, I’ve been focusing on unplugging as much as possible. My phone is no longer with me at all times and my blog posts have become few and far between. I don’t dislike my phone (OK, really, I’m talking about every stinking facebook notification that would make my phone buzz…I put a stop to that) or my blog (I love you guys), but I simply needed to re-focus the time I was investing in those things. I’m focusing on being available for people (not something that comes naturally to me as I like to stay busy with my own to-do lists and projects) and having the attitude of willingness to drop whatever I’m doing or whatever I had planned for day to be able to spend some time with people. The Lord is growing me and preparing me (though I’m not entirely sure what all for) and I feel so incredibly grateful for this current season of flexibility as the clock ticks on our time left in Wichita.
So, while My Yellow Umbrella isn’t going anywhere, understand that the posts probably won’t be as often as they once were. Just know I’m redirecting that time into relationships. I will however, give you a round-up, Instagram-style of what’s been going on in our house lately. 🙂

From top to bottom, left to right:
1. 25 lbs. of organic farmer’s market tomatoes became 3.5 quarts of canned pizza/pasta sauce for the winter!
2. Yikes, a tiny little mouse popped out of the box of mason jars I was digging through in the garage. He was set free in the back yard shortly after the photo was taken. 🙂
3. Cowboy took me on a mystery date…to the rodeo!!
4. New canning set!
5. Cooper is sleeping well these days.
6. Homemade citronella candles (all soy wax!)
7. Finally finished hand-painting the sign for the living room. It reads, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. – Abraham Lincoln”
8. Full set of 8 metal bowls/plates/cups for camping…for $5 at a warehouse sale!
9. Homemade bread and fresh basil. Yummmmm.

How To: Faux Metal Wall Letters

Hello, friends!
I’m happy to report several things:
1. Most all leftover wedding items and post-wedding move-in (for the groom) is taken care of put away (uhh…the stuff all over the garage doesn’t count, right?!)…or I’m just used to seeing things in the places they now reside. This means more time for more projects and focusing on making this little house a lovely first home for us.
2. Our small group from church met at our house last week…which prompted most of #1.
3. Our WEDDING PHOTOS ARE BACK!!!!! Meaning, you, my lovely friends, are going to start seeing lots of wedding-related tutorials, just in time for those of you planning a wedding for this spring/summer. Lots of ideas coming your way! If you’re interested in another sneak peak, see our photographer’s blog. (Yes, you want to see this.)
Ahem, anyway, back to the post for today. Since I’ve recently found myself “void” of projects (no, that’s not really true. My brain is ALWAYS thinking of new projects.), I thought I’d tackle one wall of my kitchen. I had seen these done several different ways (and have done them a different way, in fact, for a bridesmaid gift) like painted silver to look like metal or like Restoration Hardware knock-offs, but I wanted to do mine just slightly different (and original–to me, at least). 
Here is my end result!

I started with three paper maché letters from JoAnn’s (that just happened to be 30% off for $2 each)…then I started roaming around the store and landed in the scrapbooking aisle, where I found this awesome pressed/textured paper (which also happened to be 30% off for $.69 each). Seriously, you guys…this paper rocks. It’s a shimmery, metallic-y gold that has the greatest texture pressed into it. It looks like sheets of patterned metal, like this. I really think angels sang when I saw it and held it up to my paper maché letters. (Don’t you love when you get inspired and a project just comes together??)

I flipped it over and traced my letter, leaving enough excess to wrap the sides with. If I didn’t have enough to wrap the sides entirely (like between the horizontal parts of the “E”, I just mod podged another section underneath and then applied the main piece over it, mod podging everything down to be nice and seamless. (Just in case you are confused by the orientation of the paper in the below picture, my E looks “correct,” even though it should look backward, because it’s upside down. You want to turn your letter over so that you’re tracing a pattern for the front–which might look backward. All of my letters just happened to be symmetrical.)

After mod podging everything down (just underneath. I did not apply another layer on top as I didn’t want my pattern to look dulled) I let everything dry last night and this is what I had this morning!

Seriously, you guys…I know I keep saying this, but LOOK at the TEXTURE!

(See above for how I wrapped the corners in places where they were least likely to be noticed, like on the bottom of the A.)

As for how I hung them: they’re super light, so I shot an upholstery staple into the back and stuck a piece of painter’s tape at the bottom to keep it from sliding around (i.e. becoming unlevel…that would never go unnoticed in my house) or getting knocked off of the wall. Pretty professional, eh? 😉

Fills the little space perfectly, just like I was hoping. I actually originally intended on spray-painting these another color–like metallic silver or maybe even an eye-grabbing red, but the more I worked on these, the more the gold grew on me. So, I’ll leave them gold for now and we’ll see what color they end up after some time.

Total cost: $8.04!

Also, an update on my 2012 goals. I’m three yoga classes in and loving it. It’s amazing how relaxed I feel right after class (and how sore I am the next morning!). Second, I’m well into my quilt-planning and material purchasing. I’ve designed my pattern, I’m waiting on some fabric samples to arrive (who knew charcoal-colored broadcloth would be so hard to find?) and I went ahead and purchased my batting while JoAnn’s had it for 50% off this week. Once I decide on a fabric, I just need to purchase it, start cutting pieces, piece it together, baste, quilt it and bind it…ha! No big deal, right?

2012 Goals and a Free Printable

Good morning, loves!

I have great news…are you ready? It’s Saturday!!! One of my favorite times of the week is waking up on Saturday morning with plenty of time to spare (you know…around 9:00 or so…we’re not talking early here, people). There’s something about having an entire day open and free to accomplish and tackle projects, take day trips, go to the gym…whatever your heart desires and the day can handle! The day is simply full of optimism and promise at that point.

So, on this optimistic Saturday morning, I thought I would share some of my goals for 2012. I’m not a big fan of setting resolutions because I think you should make necessary changes asap…not wait for the beginning of the year. However, I am a very goal-oriented person. There are things (for myself) that I’ve pushed off until “after the wedding” (do you know how many times I’ve said those words in the last six months?). So, here we are…”after the wedding”…and I thought it would be a perfect time to start myself with some fun goals.

So here we go:

  • Make a quilt: two of my great-grandmas were quilters. One on my mom’s side and one on my dad’s side. I, very luckily, ended up with a quilt that great grandma “Y” made and it covers the bed in our guest bedroom. She has since passed (when I was little), but my great grandma Ruth (mom’s side) is still here. Mostly, I remember being at her little apartment when we would make trips back home to Texas to see family. I remember her making bean soup (and letting me put as much salt as I wanted in them…isn’t that a weird memory? I have no idea why this was a big deal to me…although I’m sure I was just flexing my independence from mom’s watchful eye, haha! I ate some verrryyy salty beans at her house). I also remember her quilting. I remember the frame in the back bedroom that could pretty much stretch across the whole room as she would be in the middle of hand-stitching one of her quilts. She doesn’t quilt anymore…but that’s because she’s 94! She was extremely talented and her work was exquisite. So, in memory and ode to my great-grandmas, I want to make a quilt. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is the one.
  • Make my own cleaning projects: This is one of those things I’ve simply been keeping front-of-mind to accomplish for quite some time. So, now that I’ve written it down (I’m an OCD list-maker), it will happen! Not only will this save money, but it will also rid our home of some harsh chemicals.
  • Take a yoga class: again, this is one of those things that I’ve been wanting to do, but just keeps getting pushed aside. This is the year of yoga! As a previous marathon runner, I’m looking forward to working up a sweat and getting a good workout without beating my body up.
  • Learn my camera: (more on this below)
  • Make a piece of clothing (for myself): I specified because I’ve made clothing before. In fact, I made our flower girl dresses. But I’ve never made a piece of clothing for myself. I haven’t been specifically inspired by anything as of yet, but it’s only January 7. And accessories (like scarves, bags, etc.) don’t count because I’ve made those too.
Now, for the camera. After returning duplicate wedding gifts, adding up all of our Target gift cards and redeeming a 10% off coupon Target sent us for remaining registry items, the Mr. and I came home with this:

 Yep…a Canon EOS Rebel T2i. It’s like a dream come true. Seriously…I’ve been eyeing this camera for a very long time. I did in fact put it on our registry, if you caught that a minute ago, in hopes that someone would decide to be super duper uber generous to us (well, people WERE generous…but an $800 camera would have taken the cake on generous, if you know what I mean). BUT it ended up working out perfectly; in classic Alina fashion, we ended up getting it for $625 with an in-store sale + 10% off coupon. That also just happened to be almost exactly what we had in gift cards, so we walked out with this baby for freeeeee!!! A BIG thank you to everyone who gave us Target gift cards!

So, I want to get to know my camera. I spent an evening watching YouTube videos on ISO, aperture and shutter speed, so I’m happy to say I now know how to work my camera in manual mode…but that doesn’t mean I quite have a feel for which settings are best in which situation. For now, I can use Canon’s pre-set modes while I dabble in manual, but I’d like to have a MUCH better understanding by the end of the year. Like, as in I could explain it to someone else with confidence.

Finally, I do have one more goal. It’s always been my goal to see all 50 states before I turn 25, which seemed really easy and reasonable at the age of 18, when I set the goal. Now, I only have a little over a year and a half left! Ack! I only have 20 states left, but that includes Hawaii and Alaska…so, wish me luck.

I mentioned above that I’m an OCD list-maker. Seriously…I would live and die by my lists. There’s something about finishing an item and being able to cross it off. I’m just like my step-mom in that if I accomplish something that wasn’t on “the list,” I will actually physically add it to the bottom of the list, just so I can cross it off! Crazy, I know.

I like to do the same thing with states. I’ve had various maps printed out since I set this goal so that I could cross off states as I accomplished them, but I decided to make one I could hang on the wall to display. I found a printable map here and tweaked it a bit to make it my own. I put it in an 8×10 frame (so it should print nearly perfect for an 8×10 frame…let me know if it doesn’t) and colored in the states I’ve been to with a dry erase marker. You could color in the states on the paper itself, but let’s face it…dry erase markers are way more fun.

So, for the first ever MYU free printable, I thought I would share it, both as a thank you and as an encouragement to travel and try something new this year.  Click HERE or the picture below to download!

Please only download/print these for personal use–please and thank you!

Enjoy your Saturday, friends!


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