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: