Homemade Vanilla Extract Wedding Favors Doubled as Place Cards

DIY-vanilla-extract-favors

I’ve realized I’m very far behind in adding the DIY/tutorials posts from our wedding, so I’m going to try to get some of those up for anyone working on their late spring/summer weddings!

One of the fun and easy projects we created combined two tasks in one – favors for our wedding guests and name cards/place cards (sometimes known as “escort cards”,) to help our guests find their seats. Many of our guests enjoy cooking and baking – or live with someone who does! – so we decided to make a big batch of vanilla extract and divide it among our guests as favors. We dispensed it into adorable little glass bottles, adorned with sticker labels indicating the guests’ names and seats. We also had children attending our wedding, so we filled their bottles with miniature M&M’s candies.

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Homemade vanilla extract wedding favor

I designed the sticker labels to match our wedding invitations, which was a fun and easy way to tie in the existing design elements and color scheme. Each label had the guest’s name, followed by the table number they were to be seated at.  As a little extra, I made the simple little ‘chalkboard’ style sign in front.  Since I added this piece at the last minute, we didn’t have time to find any small chalkboards. I made a quick little 4×6″ graphic and inserted it into a photo frame from Michael’s craft store.

vanilla-extract-favors-seating-signIf you’d like to make the same favors/seating guide for your guests, feel free to use the sign! I took our initials out of the heart, so you may download the image, or download the file as a .pdf to print it at a higher resolution, available here:

Favors-Sign

For the bottles, I purchased the clear glass 1oz size from Container & Packaging Supply:

You can find those here. I used the corresponding small silver bottle tops to go with them, but I do believe they also have white, and possibly black, in the same size. When you view the product page, it shows you the other items that fit with the bottle.

For the labels on the bottle, I went with a 1-1/2 x 1-1/2″ square sticker labels. There are plenty of additional sizes as well as round labels if you prefer, but I liked the look of the square to go with our theme/designs. These are the ones I used:

You can find those here. One pack comes with a total of 600 square labels, which is a LOT! Plenty of extras for trial & error when you’re testing out your prints.

Last but not least, making your own vanilla extract is incredibly easy! This is the general guidelines I use, as follows:

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Ingredients for 8 oz of extract:

1 cup vodka

4-5 whole vanilla beans

glass jar with lid

Instructions:

Slice the vanilla beans open lengthwise with a sharp knife. Add the vanilla beans (the whole bean,) and vodka to the clear glass container. Give it a good shake, and store it in a cool dark place for at least 3 months. Every week or two, shake the container again. You’ll notice the little vanilla seed flecks floating around – this is perfectly fine, they are the bulk of the flavor!

Optional: Once the mixture has steeped and is a nice rich brown color (the darker the better,) remove the pods from the jar and pour the liquid into a separate vessel, if you so desire. Some people like to strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve, but I personally don’t do that. It’s entirely at your discretion.

A great source for vanilla beans is Vanilla Products on ebay. I’ve been buying from them for years.

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Even if you aren’t getting married, vanilla extract makes a great gift for your fellow bakers! Be sure to start steeping it well ahead of your event for gifting.

The wedding photographs in this post were taken by Sarah Jayne Photography.

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My Handmade Wedding Gown – Images and Overview of the Design Process

VictoriaandFrank-115Photograph taken by Sarah Jayne Photography.

When Frank and I got engaged in May of 2013, the very first thing I did was plan a visit to a local bridal shop to try on wedding gowns. I was so excited that I booked an appointment a mere week later. When the day arrived, I quickly found myself surrounded by a sea of tulle, beads, and lace, in too-tight polyester nightmares which left me feeling breathless – and not in the good way.

I managed to try on half a dozen vastly different gowns before leaving the store. I was feeling disappointed, sticker-shocked, and uncomfortable… but the one thing I was sure of was that I did not want a strapless gown – weren’t they so “typical”? (Not to mention, I was convinced that my petite frame couldn’t pull off the strapless look; it probably didn’t help that all of the sample gowns were 8 sizes too big for me.) At that point I decided to spare myself from further dress shopping, and start the process of making my own wedding dress.

You might be thinking, “Is she nuts?” Well, maybe I am, a little…but I did graduate from FIDM with a degree in Fashion Design, so I had that knowledge working for me! Granted, we never made wedding gowns…or anything remotely similar.. but, nothing ventured/nothing gained, right?

Dresses-1-2Images by Sarah Jayne Photography.

Before I got started, I had one major hurdle: I’d already made my wedding necklace – hand formed clay roses accented by vintage faceted glass beads and freshwater pearls – and I had my heart set on wearing a gown that coordinated with it. Clearly this situation is different from the “normal” bride who picks out her accessories after she has her gown, but I am a full time jewelry designer – thus my priorities are a little different than most!

Dresses-3-4Images by Sarah Jayne Photography.

I spent some time that summer draping different silhouettes onto my dress form, and researching various fabric options and notions. For a while, I was still convinced that strapless wasn’t for me.

Then one magical creative day, design inspiration struck: I had draped a sweetheart neckline bodice (with the full intent of adding straps to the design,) and on a whim, added a curved trim piece to the top of the bust line. Suddenly my design vision was clear – the curved trim on the neck line was the perfect way to mimic the roses from my necklace, without screaming “floral” from the bridal rooftops! I tried on the sample top along with my necklace, and was excitedly surprised at how truly fitting it looked.

I finished sewing my sample by giving the bodice a natural waist line to accentuate my figure, along with a dramatic A-line silhouette with an over-sized layered flounce and modern wide hem trim. I knew I had a winner; I was elated! Our wedding theme was to be a mix of vintage and modern, with a trend of looped ribbon elements, and this design was a perfect fit for both myself and our big day. I happily pranced around in my sample gown while showing it off to my parents over a Skype video-chat. I think that is what most brides must have felt like when they tried on The One!

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Now that my design was solidified and I had made final fit adjustments, I had to get to work on patternmaking.  The above images show the sample I draped for the oversized flounce idea. This was one very long piece of fabric (cut on the bias grain line, in a circular shape) with large folds in specific places in order to create the “layered” look all the way around the waist line. I made two of these pieces – one for each side, starting at the center front waist line and ending at the center back. The really difficult part about this was making sure I marked my sample in a logical way in order to transfer the fold placement markings to my pattern, and then to my final fabric. Yikes! If you can’t see from the images, I used a different colored pencil for each fold grouping.

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Reminiscent of my FIDM patternmaking days, our pup Butters always takes the opportunity to lend a helping paw. Or, you know, distract me from getting my work done. Transferring the muslin pattern piece to the paper pattern gave me the opportunity to make some corrections in length. This piece shows a portion of the flounce. The final pattern piece looked like a giant elongated “C” shape.

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Between the outer silk fabric (Italian ivory silk taffeta) and the silk chiffon lining, I’d lost count of how many pattern pieces went into this design. I’d included princess seams (my favorite!) on both the front and back of the bodice, plus both center front and horizontal seams on the bust section.

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Honestly, one of the most rewarding parts of designing – for me  personally – is sewing in the final fabric! (This outer layer is referred to as the “self” fabric.) It feels amazing to put the pieces together and see the garment come to life. The image above is the silk self layer of the bodice, still in progress.

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This was a close-up shot in progress of the middle layer of the bodice, which holds the boning. I used plastic boning, since I didn’t need super heavy-duty boning for this garment.

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For the hem of the flounce pieces, I added in horsehair braid. Nowadays this is made with a flexible nylon material, not actual horse hair. It’s very stretchy and fun to play around with! It helps add volume to your hem lines by flaring them away from the garment.

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At this point, I was working on the hem of the skirt portion. The ideal way to do this would have been with long strips of my silk cut on the bias, but I was on a budget and wasn’t able to purchase all of the additional yardage I would have need to accomplish that. Instead, I did it the hard way!

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One of my favorite parts – notions! I found these beautiful vintage glass shank buttons from a shop on Etsy. I had exactly two of them left over after finishing my gown, and used 1 button in each of the two silk flower corsages I made – one for my mom, and one for my mother-in-law. I’ll post pictures of those later on. The close-up shot here was before I added the hook-and-eye closure at the top. I just really love these buttons! They looked great with the vintage glass on my necklace, and are so beautiful and unique.

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I spent about four hours hand stitching each of the flounce hems closed with a catch stitch. Each length was multiple yards long! I would venture to say that it was one of the most tedious parts of this process. Although I find hand finishing hems rather relaxing, I did spread it out over the course of two weekend days, so as to not put too much strain on my body or eyes. After I finished them, it was time for another test fitting for length! I wanted it to be floor length, and had quite a bit of extra fabric to remove. It’s always better to initially have it too long than too short, though!

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A friend of mine who was a fellow FIDM classmate assisted me with finalizing the hem length. You can do a lot of work yourself, but I would never advise measuring a hem on yourself, for yourself, alone. She did a fantastic job, and the length came out perfectly! For the finishing touch and that “something blue,” I added a little extra personalization by embroidered our wedding date and initials along the inside of the hem.

VictoriaandFrank-514Image by Sarah Jayne Photography.

Whew! That was a lot of work, but I really think it was worth it.. Don’t you? :) If you’d like to see more images of my gown and our DIY handmade wedding day, please head on over to my full blog post about it, found here: https://victoriaallison.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/diy-backyard-brunch-wedding-in-new-hampshire/

DIY Backyard Brunch Wedding in New Hampshire

SarahJaynePhotography-CampAllisonWedding1Image by Sarah Jayne Photography.

This past May, I married my best friend and partner of 10 years! We held our ceremony and reception in the backyard of my parents’ New Hampshire home – complete with a mix of sun, rain showers, and heavy downpours (in true New England fashion,) a cupcake chandelier, and a make-your-own waffles brunch.

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My husband and I spent nearly an entire year planning, DIY’ing, and vintage sourcing, with help from our lovely family and friends along the way.

One of my biggest projects was designing my own wedding gown. As a graduate of FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising,) I don’t think I would have forgiven myself if I didn’t put my skills to good use, especially for such a momentous occasion in my life! I also made my necklaces, bracelet, and the accessories for the wedding party.

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Our dog Butters joined us for the event, of course.  He wouldn’t leave my side the entire time I was getting ready that morning!

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Frank and I both enjoy cooking, and decided to host a waffles brunch reception. We tested out various waffle recipes and purchased 4 double-waffle irons for our guests to use. My sister and I mixed the dry ingredients for the batter the night before the wedding, and our fabulous friends John and Amanda finished the batter the morning of. There was no shortage of fun toppings, from sweet to savory! (One of my “must have” toppings was real maple syrup! We purchased a gallon of it from a local farm, Ben’s Sugar Shack.)

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We wanted to break away from traditional floral centerpieces and invoke a “wow!” factor as our guests entered the tent.  Some of my favorite DIY projects to achieve it included hand-rolled crepe paper rosette pomanders. I chose three colors – mauve, white, and olive – and made of them in varying sizes, which were hung above our head tables by my brother-in-law and Best Man, Jim. With the help of our friends and family, we cleaned and spray painted nearly 100 recycled and vintage glass bottles! We arranged them along the center of the main reception tables, over burlap table runners.

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For the head tables, mom and I collected vintage milk glass and vintage goblets in amethyst and olive. I sewed looped ribbon table runners and matching napkin rings, while my mother-in-law and nieces helped us fold and set all of the cloth napkins.

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One of the best parts about these decorations was that I got to keep them once the wedding day had ended!

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My sister Amity arranged both of our beautiful bouquets (peonies and lilacs, adorned with extra green ribbon from our reception decor projects.)

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Frank’s cousin Annie made all of our cupcakes and our cake. They were delicious -chocolate cake, and chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting piped into rosettes.  One of the highlights after the cake cutting was the lowering of the cupcake chandelier, which was designed and fabricated by my husband! A former stage rigger, he also hung all of the pendant lights to illuminate the tent.

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After the reception, we headed to the local ice cream shop (Kimball Farms) for a giant banana split.

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After our ice cream, we headed across the street to the beautiful field for some post-reception photos. Of course, I had to perform a quick change of my shoes and jewelry to be more “field appropriate!”

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Nearly 3 months later, I still feel like I have wedding-planning fever. With that being said, I want to share a series of some of our DIY projects with you! In addition to my usual recipe and jewelry posts, I’ll be adding tutorials and photo posts for those crafty brides-to-be out there, in hopes that it might add some inspiration to your own wedding planning.

Here’s a list of everything we made ourselves (photo posts and tutorials will be posted and linked later. Check back on this post!)…

My wedding gown

– Bridal necklaces

– Maid of Honor and flower girls’ jewelry

– Corsages

– Ribbon boutonnieres

– Flower girls’ hair accessories

– Invites/RSVP’s

– Clay rose ring holder (ring pillow alternative)

– Ceremony arbor

– Burlap table runners

– Paper-cut cake topper and table numbers

– Hand rolled crepe paper rosette pomanders

– Looped ribbon table runners and matching ribbon napkin rings

– Cards box

Homemade vanilla extract favors/seating placements

– Spray painted bottle centerpieces

– Cupcake chandelier

– Chalkboard signage

If there’s any tutorials you want to see first, let me know, as I won’t be working in chronological order.

Happy day!

All images in this post were taken by our fabulous photographer Sarah, over at Sarah Jayne Photography. She also has a blog and Facebook page. Hair and make-up by the talented Regina Garnett.

Amending the All Work and No Play mentality..

Dear Blog,

I know it has been a while since I’ve written, but I promise that I still care about you! I have been so busy these past few months, I never had the time to sit down and collect my thoughts. Contrary to my prior all-work-and-no-play lifestyle, I decided that massive amounts of hard work and designing schedules that consume all daylight hours do actually merit some time away, even if I don’t leave the comfort of the West Coast.

With that in mind, I have tried to schedule time to see family, get some fresh air, and try my hand at some new baking recipes (one of which I’ll share this weekend.)

Much love,

Victoria

PS- Here’s a glimpse of what I’ve been up to in my blogging absence..

April..

After my Fab.com sale ended, we took a couple of days up north to relax along the Sonoma County Coast, and spent some time at the Timber Cove Inn (with a room overlooking the cove and shoreline.) Foggy mornings mixed with patchy afternoon sun, delicious food, no television, and little to no cellphone reception made for a peaceful and rejuvenating escape.

Timber Cove Inn – morning fog..

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Family photo, taken in the spot where our room’s view overlooked. Butters was more interested in the scenery than posing for yet another picture..

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I could have spent the entire two days photographing the amazing scenery; there are many more, but here’s a glimpse..

Obligatory Butters photo. I'm pretty sure this was one of his favorite places ever. I would have to agree that it was one of my favorites, too.

Obligatory cute Butters photo. I’m pretty sure this was one of his favorite places ever. I would have to agree that it was one of my favorites, too.

May…

The month of May brought with it an engagement, followed by a graduation ceremony for my fiance, in which I watched him speak to his graduating class as Valedictorian!…

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Antique edwardian ringAnother shot to show off the beautiful detailing (it’s an antique!)

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Towards the end of May, I also had the privilege of seeing some of my jewelry designs on TV! They were on the air in Salt Lake City for a Celebration Gifts segment on The Daily Dish.

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You can see my jewelry there in the center! (Heart lockets, constellation lockets, and constellation compasses, all available on my website http://www.victoriacamp.com.)

June…

Both May and June were so busy with gifts for graduates! Some of my most popular designs were the quote compasses:

Working Compass Necklace - Robert Frost Two Roads Diverge Poem - 4Working Compass Necklace with Vintage Map and Robert Frost Quote – The Road Not Taken (http://www.victoriacamp.com/Working-Compass-Necklace-Vintage-Map-Robert-Frost-p/compass-mapquote.htm) Available with the quote shown, or a custom quote of your choice!

..as well as my constellation compasses, in the small size:

Custom Small Working Constellation Compass Small Working Compass Necklace with Personalized Zodiac Constellation (http://www.victoriacamp.com/Small-Custom-Zodiac-Constellation-Compass-Necklace-p/smallconstellationcompass.htm)

But, keeping with the mindset of not living an all work and no play life, we decided to take a road trip down south for some family time. We visited my sister and her family in So. Cal, as well as my future brother-in-law and his wife in Las Vegas.

Cutie pie kids.. my oldest niece, and my nephew (youngest of 4!)

Cutie pie kids.. my oldest niece, and my nephew (youngest of 4!)

During our San Diego visit, we visited some friends, went to the San Diego Zoo, as well as the Old Town area for some fun. Our time in Vegas included a backstage tour of the Celine Dion production at The Colosseum (or maybe I should say “up stage”, as we saw where the crew production takes place!,) played a few slot machines (obligatory,) visited the Boot Barn (lots of cowboy hats and boots!,) and ended with the Bellagio fountains show via a fabulous view from the Louis Vuitton balcony.

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As for July.. well, the month is only half over! I have a recipe to post for you this weekend – cherry crumb bars! They were so delicious, I’ve been daydreaming about them for days since we finished eating them.

Hope you’re having a great summer!