upcycled plaid shirt

A few weeks ago, I looked through my summer clothes and realized the vast majority of the tops in my summer work wardrobe were knit v-neck t-shirts in a variety of solid colors. Knits are comfy, sure, but they also stick to you after you get sweaty, which is about 30 seconds after you walk out of the house here.

I was looking for some lightweight wovens and prints to liven up my wardrobe. My next trip to the thrift store netted me several oversized bright printed shirts that I wanted to cut down into wearable summer shirts for me. (If anyone has tips on how to remake a silk lime-printed shirt with a high neckline, lining and sheer sleeves, let me know!)

I knew that that even though Cirque du Bebe, and many other bloggers I saw, could pull off the Wiksten Tank I would need something with more structure up top. I hacked my first top (not photographed yet) and trying to make matching darts from nothing was a lot of work. It turned out okay, but I was looking for an easier way since I wanted to make several tanks.

Enter the Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank. There were darts, already marked! (And the price was right.)

I started tearing this shirt up as soon as I got it in the door, so there isn’t a before picture, but this one on ebay is pretty close. I left the buttons in the front of the shirt, after replacing them with pale yellow ones instead of the mother of pearl that were on there. I sewed the placket closed on both sides since the sheer fabric was going to need a lining and I wanted it to hang right.

I cut two layers, one of shirt, one of pale yellow thrifted sheet, both very lightweight. It saved me from making armhole and neck facings on this version, always a bonus. I kept the hem on the shirt and hacked them hem on the lining because it kept sticking out the bottom.

It was very comfortable to wear around and didn’t cling to me the way knits do. I made a muslin first and took an inch or two out of the straps on this version. Even with those adjustments I’m still going to raise the neckline a smidge on my next tank.

The pattern was great, as was having darts built in. I didn’t get the tent look I’d feared if I had gone the Wiksten route. I had to make a few adjustments cutting the shirt based on the pieces of the original shirt I was working with, but there’s room in this pattern to lose some width on the sides if you are working with a limited amount of fabric.

I’ve made one other version of this tank so far (also yet to be photographed) and with the neckline adjustments more of these might be coming out of my craft room soon.

Though I’m not close to being able to participate in Me Made May, I did realize over the weekend I’d used/worn three items that I’ve sewn recently. A year ago I only had one skirt I’d sewn in my closet, so it’s pretty cool to realize some of the things I’ve made are becoming staples in my wardrobe.


aprons for Haiti

After I finished sewing my little dresses for Africa and Love without Boundaries, I was looking for another opportunity to sew for charity. I found a great project where people are making aprons for women in Haiti in this blog post from Maureen Cracknell Handmade. Some of the organizations that take handmade items for charity have specific requirements about designs and materials, so it’s nice to come across a project where you can use what you have around already.

I used fabrics that had been hanging around in my stash for awhile and had already been used for several things. (Vintage sheets keep going and going!)

This first fabric was given to me by a friend of my mom’s and I wasn’t crazy about it. Of course, now that I’ve seen it paired with black and with white in this crochet hook roll, the fabric is growing on me.

All the aprons I made were half-aprons that used a large rectangle folded in half for the skirt, and very long rectangles for the ties. This apron has long ties that go around to the front so it can fit a variety of sizes. The pockets are also rectangles, sewed in half and turned, and then topstitched on the apron. I’ll put more specific directions at the end of this post.

I cut all my apron skirts to maximize the fabric I had left over. This rectangle was very long so I gathered it to lose some width.

This second apron I did the same way. The skirt is a vintage sheet, and I added vintage pillowcase scraps for interesting pockets. I could have gathered this apron as it goes all the way around me, but I left it wide.

This apron (also a vintage sheet) has contrasting rectangles added on the back to make the pockets pop. The pockets have rounded corners and are placed on at an angle.

The colors are hard to see in this photo, but the contrast rectangles for the pockets are brown and the pieces on the ties are burgundy.

I sewed all the details (pockets, sash, etc.) with contrasting thread. My design elements were mostly dictated by what fabric I had left and the scraps I could cobble together. I’m happy with how they all turned out and was pleased I was able to use up a good chunk of these fabrics.

The aprons are now in the mail headed to Tennessee. More info about the aprons for Haiti project can be found on the Craft Hope Facebook page, and their apron event on Facebook. The deadline is May 31st, but you still have some time left to make an apron or two.

Edit: The deadline just got extended until July! I’ll have to make a few more aprons before then.

These aprons are pretty simple and I made it up as I went along, but here are some basic directions. If you are looking for more specific details, there are tons of apron patterns and tutorials out there.

What you need:

– a large rectangle for the apron skirt

Cut your rectangle as wide as you like to wrap around your waist. I used an apron I already had to figure out the width and length. Remember you will be folding this rectangle in half, so make it twice the length you want. If you want to gather your skirt, cut 1.25 or 1.5 times the width you need depending on how much gathering you want.

– one or two long rectangles for the apron ties

You can make the apron ties long enough to wrap around your waist once or twice. The width of the strip depends on the look you want. A wide strip would be about 6″ (folded in half = a little less than 3 inches wide after narrow hem). A narrow strip would be 3-4″ or two 2″ strips. I wouldn’t suggest going much narrower than 3″ for a single strip or 2″ for two strips, taking seam allowance and a narrow hem into account.

– one or two rectangles (or any other shape) for the pockets

I made mine just big enough to put my hand in, but keep in mind what you will want to put in the pockets: spoon, towel, etc. These will also be folded in half, so make them twice the length you want.

1. Fold your large skirt rectangle in half, right sides together, and sew around three edges. Turn the skirt right side out, press and topstitch the sewn edges. You can staystitch the unfinished edge at the top above the seam allowance to prevent shifting.

If you are gathering your apron skirt, you may want to skip to step two and sew on your pockets first before you gather. To gather, sew two lines of long stitches (I sew mine at 4.5) on the top and pull the back threads to gather to desired width. To keep your gathering in place, you will probably want to sew a seam at normal stitch length to secure it.

2. Sew the pockets the same way as the skirt, along three sides and turn. Fold the top of pocket in 1/4″ and topstitch close to edge. Attach pockets near center of skirt with topstitching. I used two rows of topstitching on mine.

3. If you cut your apron ties as two rectangles, sew the tops of the ties together and press along the seam. If you cut the ties as one rectangle, you can just press the strip in half. You can topstitch along the finished top of the ties if you want.

Then fold under 1/8″ or 1/4″ twice on the bottom edges to make a narrow hem. I sewed the raw edges of my ties closed right sides together and then folded the seam allowance back under on the edges before I started attaching the ties.

(I realize this part may be a bit tricky without a photo…)

I sewed one side of the ties to apron skirt the same way I sew on double-fold bias tape: I unfolded the wide part and sewed where the folds overlapped. Make sure you are attaching the ties below your gathering stitches and staystitching. After you’ve sewn one side of the ties to the front of the apron, fold the rest of the ties up and over and pin carefully trying to match the front and backs as best you can. This part took me the most time, but you only have one seam left and you’re done! After you carefully pin the remaining open part of the tie to itself and to the front and back of the apron and are sure it lines up, sew a long seam close to the edge. Make sure you’ve got both sides sewn down in the seam and you’re done!

crochet hook roll

I made myself a crochet hook roll awhile back so I could keep track of what sized hooks I had and make it easy to find the one I needed. I used this tutorial as the basis for my project and added a few inches on so I could throw some in scissors, a yarn needle or a small tape measure in one of the pockets.

On the outside, I quilted around some of the circles in the middle piece of fabric to give it some dimension, and did crooked lines on the sides for interest.

The most time-consuming part was putting in all the pockets for the hooks. Since I only had the hooks you see above, I made just the number of pockets I needed and measured them out to size.

(I used to have smaller acrylic hooks, but they all snapped. I’m sticking with Boye aluminum hooks for now, though I’d like some wooden or bamboo ones.)

This past weekend I made another crochet hook roll for my grandmother’s birthday. She’s the one who taught me to crochet so it seemed appropriate.

I used this teal fabric and weaver’s cloth from my stash. I liked the texture and stiffness of the weaver’s cloth for this project, and it showed the decorative stitching in teal well. I chose this stitch because my grandmother has always enjoyed birdwatching and has lots of feeders on her back porch; this stitch reminds me of bird footprints.

I already had this trim and bias tape in my stash. Making my own bias tape is still on my to-do list. I fray-checked the ends of the trim, but also sewed several tight loops of thread around the ends to keep the three strands together.

If anyone knows what else can be done with trim like this, let me know. I’m not sure what else it’s good for other than a project with ties.

I finished it Friday and popped it in the mail today, so it should only be a few days late. Her birthday was this past Sunday and hopefully she will have many more to come!

works in (slow) progress

Not a lot of sewing going on this week. Some cutting out has occurred, but mostly I’ve been thinking about projects and looking ahead to things I’m going to do.

– Work was draining my desire for sewing this week (even though my thrifting went splendidly!). Last night I decided I’d get it together and sew one of the things I’d cut out, a diaper cover to match Emma’s vintage pillowcase dress. I almost started it the other day, but was out of skinny elastic. With freshly purchased elastic in hand, I decided to power through from start to finish before settling in to watch some TV. All was going well and just as I was adjusting the elastic and getting ready to close the casings the power went out. In the whole house. And on the whole block and in a good chunk of the surrounding neighborhood. It was already late, so I knew there was no way I was going to finish it last night.

The power came on an hour later. It turns out a six-foot copperhead crawled into somewhere it shouldn’t have in the substation, got zapped and cut off power to about 6500 people in the area.

– I also realized the gift I was planning to mail my grandmother for her birthday will be belated. Her birthday is Sunday and the project is cut out, but not started at all. I somehow lost track of about a week or two.

– I was able to get a lot done project-wise the last couple weekends, but I’m working Friday night and Saturday and hoping to get out of town for a mini-adventure on Sunday so my projects may be waiting awhile longer.

– I’m a list maker who always has to be doing something. What do I do when I’ve crossed a bunch of things off my list? Make a longer list with more things I “need” to do on them. It’s hard for me to take a look at the things I’ve gotten done in the past couple of weeks because I’m thinking about the things still on my list right now. If I can get my shirt refashions washed and photographed, maybe it will be easier for me to feel like I’ve accomplished something recently.

– Yesterday my blog got the most page views in one day since I started it two months ago. Apparently my baby peasant dress and diaper cover sets took off on pinterest. I just want to say thanks to everyone who’s stopped by, commented or followed my blog. I’ve really enjoyed blogging and becoming a part of the craft blog community.

I leave you with a picture of the thread stand complete with vintage wooden spools that I found at the Highway 11 yard sale today. It’s still there because the stand is not cat-proof, I wasn’t sure of the quality of the threads, and the price wasn’t right, but I did like the look. I especially like that “parakeet” blue thread at the bottom.

I also found these awesome post office mailboxes. They would be great for storage if I had somewhere to put them and would never have to move again in my life.

Here’s to more sewing in my immediate future and finishing some simple projects.

thrift store jackpot

I’ve completed four shirt refashions in the last couple weekends and I’m waiting to wash them and get some good photos before I post them on here. I’m pretty excited about how they’ve turned out considering I’d never refashioned clothes into other clothes. Sure I’ve turned sheets and curtains into dresses and skirts, and shirts and sweaters into purses, but I’d never turned a shirt into another, better shirt.

One thing I’ve learned so far, changing buttons does wonders. All four of the shirts I’ve remade have buttons. I kept the buttons in the front on two of the shirts, and the other two now have the front buttons in the back. I changed the buttons out on all three of the button-down shirts and it gives them a more interesting look than they had originally. It has me taking another look at the buttons on my non-refashioned button-downs. Maybe they are a little boring…

In other news, I went to the thrift store with the boyfriend the other night. Usually I go to the clothes first and then over to fabric/patterns/linens, but last night I switched it up and started with the fabric and linens. I found lots of stuff, and much of it had 50-70% off tags.

I learned the art of thrifting from my friend Natalie, a notorious cheapskate who is quite proud of her low-budget ways. Because of her, I can’t bring myself to pay $4 for king size sheet or $6 for a thrift store dress. The shirts I refashioned into wearable tanks were $2.50 at most. Anyway, here’s what I got last night for $13.11.

The cats enjoy sniffing my thrift store purchases after I bring them home. I threw these items in a box instead of a bag because they’d just tear the bag up.

So what all is in the box? We have seven remnants of varying sizes (brown, thick teal, silky navy, striped blue and gray, dark denim, knit blue, and orange); one twin sheet and pillowcase set; one fitted king size sheet with orange and yellow flowers whose mate I already own; one full sheet with blue, yellow and pink flowers; a thick double-sided table cloth with kelly green and aqua print; and two white lacy curtains.

close up on the linens

I know what I want to do with the lacy curtains, and I swear I saw something that gave me the inspiration, but the closest thing I can find is this and it’s not really that close.


I mostly like this for the color. I’m planning to use the white lacy part like the blue lace on this dress, subtract the gathering, overlay it on some sweet plain blue fabric (similar to this color), and have a skirt. We’ll see how this goes.

Ok, I found a better example of the blue/lacy thing I’m trying to do over at seamstress:poppykettle. This was probably my original inspiration.

Did you notice the vintage size 2 little girls patterns?

I’ve been sucked in by Vintage May and bought these patterns for the non-existant two-year-old little girl in my life. (Hey, Emma will be two eventually.) They were $.25 and 70% off so there’s a minimal risk factor here. At least I didn’t buy the adorable size 7 patterns.

I would love to buy vintage patterns for myself, but I have yet to come across a pattern with a wide enough bust measurement (38″). I still keep my eyes peeled for something that might fit, but thankfully we’ve moved into the modern age of multi-sized patterns.

Since I wrote this post the other day I’ve found a few more pattern finds at another thrift store and a cool Simplicity 1974 pattern catalog at the Highway 11 yard sale going on this weekend. I’ll post pictures soon.

quick kid shorts

I made these shorts for Emma yesterday to go with the shirt I made her for her birthday. They took hardly any time and hardly any fabric. I liked the colors though the print was kind of plain, but I thought it would be a great sort of neutral for shorts. I used a pair of 24 month pants to trace for the shorts pattern so hopefully they’ll fit and I followed this basic tutorial for how to put them together.

Note: make sure to unfold the “pattern” pants when measuring the length of the elastic for the waist. My first attempt at the waistband would have been a tight fit on a doll, much less a one-year-old.

As I’ve mentioned before, there isn’t a big selection of fabric at Hobby Lobby. On the plus side, they have several collections of fabrics that compliment each other.

Here’s a closer shot of the fabrics on the shorts and the shirt.

And this shirt in its entirety.

Hopefully Emma won’t have outgrown the shirt already before the shorts get there!

velvet clutch

I’ve had this velvet clutch in mind for awhile. I found a velvet skirt at the thrift store and wanted to pair it with a satin remnant I’d picked up to make an elegant clutch. I used this tutorial for a basic clutch from Thinking in Shapes.

I wish I would have made the top longer, but I’ll know that for next time. I used a pearly shank button so it would pop against the black, and managed to do a buttonhole on the velvet-satin combo. I almost chickened out and did a loop, but the buttonhole came out easier than expected. I wasn’t sure the best way to sew around the darts in the corners, so I sewed separate seams on each of the three sides. I did use sew-in interfacing on one side and a piece of felt on the other side to give the clutch more stability.

I have another idea for the same basic velvet-satin clutch, but with a different “lid.” That will be a little more complicated and even though I have the pieces cut out and the idea in mind, I think it will take me a little while to get to it. This clutch was for a friend who has more fancy events to go to than I do.