Thursday, April 29, 2010

MBR Spring Top Week - Mexican Tent Dress inspired top

If you don't know what a Mexican Tent Dress is, prepare to fall in love (as I did) after seeing them worn as bridesmaid dresses in this wedding blog post.

The colors, the detail, the loose fit that flatters so many body types... what's not to love?

So I took inspiration from these dresses to create my entry for Made By Rae's Spring Top Week.

PATTERN: I looked through my stash of thrifted patterns and actually found a couple that would work. The winner was Butterick Sew & Go 4823, which doesn't have a publication date but I'm guessing late 70s. The concept of this top (or dress) could be done with any pattern with a sizeable yoke or bib on which to do embellishments. You could also create your own pattern, as the shapes are basic and the fit does not need to be overly tailored.

FABRIC: A green/blue doubleknit (thrifted) for the main garment and leftover white polo shirt scraps leftover from my popped-collar-trifecta refashion.


Using freezer paper (much like wax paper but only one side is waxy), trace out the shape of the pattern piece you will be embellishing. Fold the paper in half and sketch the design on the paper one half of the freezer paper (non-waxy side). I used pencil which allowed me to change the design until I found something I really liked. If in doubt draw more items than you think you will eventually use.

Next you will transfer the drawn designs as a mirror image. Using a few pieces of scotch tape, attach the folded paper to a window and trace the design onto the remainder of the non-waxy side.

Iron your design paper with the waxy side touching the right/front side of the fabric (already cut to pattern). The wonderful thing about freezer paper is that it irons easily to fabric but also peels off easily without leaving residue.

Using small scissors, cut out the elements you will be doing as reverse applique, as shown in the image below (there's fabric under there, I promise!). I did the center medallion on my top as an normal (on top) appliqué to give the shirt some additional texture. Feel free to mix methods or do all reverse appliqué.

For the under fabric, cut slightly larger than the yoke (to allow for stretching adjustments as you pin and stitch). Pin the paper/fabric to the under fabric using a generous number of straight pins. I started in the center of my design and worked toward the sides of the yoke to ensure that the under fabric did not wrinkle or bulge. I did all hand stitching, gently tearing away the paper as I went. The purpose for leaving the paper attached is to prevent stretching the fabric or distorting the appliqué shapes. I did a simple stitch using thread matching the main garment fabric. (This is not the same technique as The Alabama Stitch Book, but you could use that method by using your freezer paper as a stencil. If you don't own the book you really should... it's just gorgeous.)

Move from each element to the next, continuing to tear away paper in small sections just before you stitch. (These stitching pictures are from my camera phone, so sorry about the image quality!)

Once finished embellishing, cut away any excess under fabric to match the yoke, and sew the garment as instructed by your pattern.

Another element I borrowed from the Mexican Tent dress is decorative stitching. I used a blanket stitch all around the yoke, arm holes, and as the bottom hem. I'm cheap so I just used 4 strands of thread in place of embroidery floss (cut one very long piece of thread, pull both ends through the eye of a needle and tie off with both the raw ends and middle).

End Result:


Since the inspiration dresses were so colorful I also considered doing a more traditional appliqué method using many colors of fabric from the t-shirt scrap bin.

For this method use the freezer paper to sketch designs, iron to scraps, and then cut out. (I traced circles, divided into segments to help me draw "petals" for the flowers)

This look was just more than I could commit to, so I used a single color and opted for the reverse appliqué technique, but you get the idea of where you could go if you don't fear color as much as I do!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mint Oreo Baby Quilt

It's been a while since I've posted a quilt! My friend Kate told people at her baby shower this afternoon that she got pregnant because last fall I complained that no one was having babies.

She and her husband have decided not to find out the sex of their baby, which is fine by me for quilting purposes.

This quilt is based on a string quilting technique detailed HERE by Ashley from Film in the Fridge, and strongly inspired by this quilt which she titled "Cookies and Cream".

Here's a full view of the front:

A closer view:

And the back:

Happy Quilting!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spring means second chances...

And this dress was begging for a second chance.

My friends and I called this before dress the "sister-wife" dress because we watch too much HBO. There are certainly some things about it that scream 'PLURAL MARRIAGE!' but other things that just epitomize bad 80s fashion. The dress is many contradictions, including a print that seems straight out of a Flintstones cartoon.

So brace yourself, as this dress has been put out of its misery!


This lovely ditty was acquired at a thrift store in the basement of a catholic church in small town Montana for 75-cents. I kept the basic structure of the bodice, which meant I didn't have to move the zipper, I just cropped off the top and zig-zagged the ends to create new stoppers. I also cut a foot or so off the bottom. The discarded sleeves supplied ample fabric for interfacing.

I was determined to use a pattern on this project, but it didn't happen :( I like to use patterns so that when I share my refashions with the blogosphere I can give instructions on how to duplicate it... but honestly I didn't like the neckline from the pattern that I originally used so I just started cutting different neck shapes until I got to one I liked! I cut it down to a sweetheart neckline, then gathered the center and stitched on a band to cover the gather.


And a close-up shot of the bodice:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Parting Gift to Winter

This refashion was poorly timed. The result screams "winter! winter!" but when I look outside it is decidedly (if not officially) springtime. But come next December, I will be be living in this sweater refashion.

A cream colored sweater from Old Navy. The garment is a few years old and I'm not sure if the sleeves were always baggy in weird places or if they were stretched out over time.

The inspiration for this refashion was this tutorial from MadebyLex (the blog formerly known as My Mama Made It). I had scraps of well worn grey t-shirt fabric left over from another refashion, and the tutorial called for "chiffon (the kind that won’t fray)" but I supplemented black swimsuit lining because it has a nice weight and texture, and I knew it wouldn't fray.

I fixed the sleeves by cutting off at an appropriate length, and then sewing on a few inches of the ribbing from the bottom of the original sleeve. Note that the ribbing will stretch out considerably, so be sure to cut it longer (taller?) than you think you will need. I used the pins to mark off both pieces into quarters, pinned the pieces together, and then sewed a zig-zag while stretching the ribbing pieces.

Next I cut (and cut and cut) the little petals from each of the three fabrics (black spandex, grey t-shirt, and the remaining cream sleeve fabric). Luckily the Olympics were on while I was slowly making my way through this project, this is definitely a project to do while occupying your brain with something else.

Finally I began sewing on the decoration with x's made by 2 petals (see tutorial). I hand stitched, and found that it went by very quick compared to the cutting phase. Below is what the inside looked like (note the interfacing, it is highly recommended by Lex to combat the weight).

My petals were MUCH more dense than in the original tutorial, which makes the look heavier, and leads me to believe this is most appropriate for winter-wear. The technique is like an adult version of this tissue paper craft technique that I rather enjoyed in childhood, so it makes me happy.

Here's a close-up:

Don't you wish you could feel the soft comforting texture? Well you can, but you have to make your own first!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Go Games Go! - USA inspired refashions

I love the Olympics, perhaps a little too much. As today is the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Games, the I'm finally getting around to posting about a pair or refashions that I did last summer to wear to a Team USA Soccer match.

I used the T-Shirt Corset pattern from Natalie Chanin's "Alabama Stitch Book" (I highly recommend this book, it's beautiful and makes a great gift!)
The blue acquired t-shirt wasn't quite enough fabric, so I made the back outer panels with white and red knit fabrics from my stash. (A little Where's Waldo, I know, but trust me on this design choice)

I used Chanin's reverse applique technique to put USA on the front (after piecing together the front panels). I did the shirt construction by machine, but all the visible stitches were by hand to give the shirt a special touch.
My significant other also requested a shirt for the event... and insisted that it have "3-popped collars". If you knew him you'd find this extremely comical because he's not a flashy or trendy dresser.

So I found 3 polo shirts at the thrift store (red, white, and blue). And used the red polo as the base of the shirt. I cut off the sleeves and replaced them with the sleeves from the white shirt, which allowed me to use the red sleeve fabric on the reverse applique to replace the shirt's original logo.
His shirt was all done on machine (applique included) but I had to hand sew all those collars. Plus I dug into my button jar to find blue and white buttons. If you're going to go over-the-top it's all about the details!
Here's my standard modeling poses:



My significant other always says, "My agent prefers that I not appear in photographs." Luckily my good friend Mikey came through Boise on the way to Antarctica (no really), and is always more than willing to model a ridiculous item of clothing for the sake of photography. He even threw in this cheesy pose just for you!

I hope you're inspired to watch the games! Be sure to find time over the next few weeks to cheer on the athletes (especially those from countries other than your own), eat Canadian foods, and remember what the Olympics stand for. With all the political crap and human suffering in our world it's awesome to be able to bring our nations together for something bigger than ourselves. Go Games Go!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2 Pant Jacket

This refashion is another from my 5-patterns-by-tax-day challenge. The original garment was Anne Taylor twill capri pants. They were leftover from a friend's yardsale, so I don 't know their history (how old, etc).


Sorry if you were hoping that I'd model them, I could lie and say that they didn't fit but the real reason is that my worst nightmare is having a picture of myself in tapered pants posted to the internet. But they were worth saving, I couldn't resist the print!

I took the time to rip out the seams (took forever but I needed to preserve as much fabric as possible so I had to save the salvages, otherwise I would have just cut them apart). Here's a rough sketch of how I cut the jacket pieces from the pants (in reality the pattern pieces were right up to each edge):

There still wasn't enough fabric for a stream-lined version of the longer jacket from Simplicity 2652, so I found a second pair of twill capri pants in black (50-cent bin of course). The pattern has a neck band that I did in the contrast fabric, and then I added contrast strips to the bottom and middle front to make each panel the size of the pattern. I was hoping to add contrast to the sleeves but there wasn't enough fabric left from the second pair of pants.


The jacket comes out very boxy, as you can see from the back:

I think the sleeves are adding to the boxiness, but I had to do a shortened version of the long sleeve option because the gathered sleeve options were too wide to come out of the bottom of the tapered capri pants.

I was apprehensive about using a "Project Runway" branded pattern (I'm a huge fan of the show, and not a fan of patterns/pattern companies) and I wouldn't give the pattern more than 3 out of 5 stars, but the jacket is still cute in the front. In defense of the Project Runway patterns, they do treat elements separately so that the sewist isn't intimidated to swap the sleeves from one view to go with the collar from another, etc. I wish more patterns treated the user as an intelligent creature, capable of making design decisions.

I'm considering adding buttons to this (currently it has the hook and eye from the original pants) but it isn't giving a sturdy enough fasten... I also think I might shorten the sleeves a bit more? What do ya'll think?

Friday, January 8, 2010

I'm back in the game...

I'm participating in The Wardrobe Refashion Challenge once again.

4 month pledge

It's somewhat addicting as it allows me to combine 2 things I love: sewing and thrifting. So here's the first project from my current pledge period...

It was a weekend night in August or September when a friend and I came across a 5-patterns-for-5-dollars deal at Joann's (dinner and a fabric store, we live life on the edge as you can tell). I must have been out of my mind when I challenged my friend to make something from each of the 5 patterns we picked out with a deadline of tax day. (She actually sews from patterns whereas I rarely do, so this was a really kookie suggestion on my part). Seeing as that deadline is a few months away, I thought I should probably make the first effort at my part of that deal.

The "fabric" is a thrifted purple ladies polo shirt (IZOD in the 50-cent bin, hooray!) and the pattern is Simplicity 2570.

The necessary "before" shot...

It needed ironed, but why make the "before" look any better? Successful refashioning is about contrast. Here's a close-up of the fabric to give the original a bit more merit!

I also used some scraps from a ragged old grey undershirt that I acquired, since there wasn't enough fabric in the original shirt for the neck and arm-hole facings.

And the after...

I think it's pretty darn cute. Since I was limited by the size of the original shirt, I had to reduce the fullness of the middle front panel to about half of the pattern, but this might not be a bad thing because too much fullness can look a bit maternity. There are darts in the back which gives a nice shape, and I omitted the zipper since this is a knit. As I am prone to do with my refashions, I preserved the hem from the original shirt... I'm not sure if this makes me part genius or just generally lazy :)

Want to see what the other Wardrobe Refashion participants are up to? Click HERE.