“parrot” strapless dress to skirt

I put down five whole dollars on this strapless dress from the thrift because I was crazy about the vibrant colors which reminded me of a blue-and-yellow macaw. That’s 2 to 10 times what I’d normally spend on a thrift store piece. (I got an Old Navy top for $0.50 on the same trip.)

I knew I wasn’t going to keep it as a dress because strapless dresses aren’t usually my friend. This one in particular was not flattering since the “waist” hit in the middle of nowhere.

I cut the bodice off and my original plan was to make a casing for the elastic from the top of the dress at the new waist. Then I realized the “waist” already had a thin piece of elastic to give it that very unflattering shape. I tested that elastic and it was strong enough to hold up the skirt, so I just folded the top over twice and stitched just under the elastic and it was done. So easy!

It doesn’t look the prettiest up close, but I’ll be wearing a shirt over it anyway. I didn’t want to stitch through the elastic since it was already attached.

If I need to flatten out the waistband, I’ll just topstitch around the top or at the bottom of the elastic, but for now it works the way it is.

top: Ann Taylor, $8/bag at rummage sale; cami: Old Navy, $2; skirt: refashioned, thrift store, $5; shoes: Steve Madden, yard sale, $1

If you want to see a strapless dress I am a fan of, check out how I restyled the pleated midi skirt made from a thrift store dress.


embroidered denim clutch

This is one of my favorite things I’ve made. I love the way the bright colors stand out on the denim.

This was the first time I’ve used embroidery floss for anything other than cross-stitch or making friendship bracelets. I don’t know anything about embroidery, though I recently found out both my mother and grandmother do.

This “embroidery” was inspired by me seeing this coin purse on Etsy. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I found a dark blue denim remnant at the thrift store, I knew this pouch was going to happen.

I got a jeans zipper to go with the denim, some super colorful embroidery thread, and a pack of tapestry needles from Hobby Lobby and looked back at the pouch to figure out how to go about making it. Then I realized my dream pouch was made of wool, which I assume is way easier to embroider. I had a moment of panic and though, I can’t embroider denim! That must be impossible. (Which obviously it isn’t.)

I had a conversation with my grandma about embroidery at our family Christmas after she asked if I embroidered this dress for Emma. I didn’t, and can’t even begin to fathom the amount of work involved in something like that. I asked her about embroidering denim and she said sure, why not?

I got to work soon after I returned home. I eliminated the gathered part of the gathered clutch tutorial from Noodlehead (and skipped the interfacing) to make my basic pouch. I wanted my end tabs to be exactly right, which involved me ripping out a TON of stitching when I was nearly completed because it didn’t line up the way I wanted.

check out those reworked end tabs!

I also tried adding a wristlet strap. I’m happy with the way I made the strap, using the strap part of this tutorial, and sewing lines 1/4″ apart the whole way down the strap, but it wasn’t working for me on this pouch so I had to tear that out too. I was frustrated after realizing I had to redo most of the pouch so I tabled it for awhile. Later, after lots of ripping and resewing and ripping out the resewing and re-resewing, I was finally satisfied with the finished pouch.

the stitching adds structure and stability to the strap (alliteration alert!)

Then it was time to embroider. I left the hole in the lining open and worked through that to embroider the front. I really enjoyed this part. I liked the way the colors showed up and the stitches were art instead of something to be hidden.

I started off sewing straight lines like the original inspiration, but they looked boring on my pouch and didn’t have the impact I wanted. Then I tried circles and loved them. Doing the circles freeform was a bit of a challenge for an exacting perfectionist who likes symmetry. I did mark some of them with soap so they would be circular, and I ripped out any number of stitches that looked too angular.

back view. no embroidery = boring.

I really liked the lining fabric I used. It was a remnant from the local fabric store in town and complimented the bright colors of the embroidery floss.

After I was done (and kept staring at my finished pouch and smiling), I vaguely recalled an embroidered pouch with circles on it that I’d seen somewhere. I combed my Pinterest board and Etsy favorites to no avail. Then I searched “embroidered circle pouch” on Etsy and this pouch popped up. Lo and behold, it’s from the same seller as my original.

I’m thinking about learning more real embroidery. I recently found some vintage embroidery transfers at the thrift store. What couple doesn’t want matching embroidered denim shirts? Especially when you can choose from designs like a radish or a snail! I’d totally wear that island sunset shirt though.

I’d like the mustache man on the right to mix me a drink in his fancy outfit (check out the shoes!) and striped apron with lime slice embroidery.

I’ve been finding lots of embroidery in my blog reading these days too (1, 2, 3). And as I now know, embroidery is a family tradition!

Every time I look at my beautiful, colorful pouch I get a big grin on my face. It’s so nice to take something you envisioned from your mind out into the real world.

blue sweatshirt fleece jacket

I made this coat way back before I made my knit top. I wanted the coat to be my first top since I restarted sewing so I forced myself to make it before I started working on other garment projects.

I wanted a sweatshirt coat after seeing this one on Running with Scissors and found a lovely shade of blue at the Joann’s near my mom over Christmas. I was all set to improvise (no idea where I would have started with that), but my mom helped me find a pattern, Vogue 8676 by Marcy Tilton, for a coat using fleece. The pictures on the front gave me pause since they were not even close to what I had in mind, but it turned out well.

(In my Googling the pattern, I found a lovely version that makes the details look much less crazy and more ladylike. Also, I love the color of her fabric!)

I did some modifications on the cuffs and collar since the pattern had you leaving many edges raw.  I finished all my edges and topstitched. I also added another button hole at the bottom of the row because having only three buttons seemed off to me. These buttons are antique reproductions I found at Joann’s at the same time as the fabric, and I love the detailing.

It’s been way too hot since, oh, about March and I’m so ready for fall weather. The continual 90 degree temperatures are causing extended daydreams about leaves and a chill in the air and pumpkin flavored desserts. In turn, these daydreams are resulting in posts where I’m wearing long sleeves (see previous post).

Unfortunately, it’s not even August yet. But the boyfriend and I cheated summer this past weekend and took a tour of a cave where the temperature is a lovely 60 degrees year-round. I got to wear a hoodie and jeans (rolled up) and was very happy.

You can’t see it here, but in this picture from April I am wearing sandals with my jeans and jacket. The jacket was too warm even then, and I haven’t had worn it at all except for these photos.

sweater upgrade

I found a deep gray sweater coat on markdown at the thrift store. When I slipped it on it fit well and was so comfortable. I knew it would be perfect for fall and winter.

The only strange thing about it was the buttons. Why someone would choose to sew shiny brown buttons onto a dark gray sweater is beyond me, but I often switch up buttons on thrift store finds.

For this sweater I choose some single and paired gray and white buttons from my stash.

(The locally sold button bracelets haven’t really gone anywhere and I recently whittled down my stash to include just my favorites.)

On the cuffs I went with these flowered metal buttons.

And I really like square buttons. I threw one into the circular mix.

I like the added element of interest on an otherwise very plain sweater.

The mismatched buttons coordinated well enough to not look out of place or crazy. I’m looking forward to the cooler weather and wearing this sweater (dress?) to keep warm. It’s a nice daydream to have on another 90 degree day.

It looks better on me than on the hanger. I just threw it on over my t-shirt and shorts and it still looks okay.

denim skirt, lengthened

I found this American Eagle denim skirt at a yard sale, and when I gave it a test wear I determined it was way too short to be practical. It went into the donate pile. But I liked the fit (other than the length) and pulled it back out after I realized a simple fix could make it wearable.

I’d found this floral fabric at the thrift store, but wasn’t sure what to do with it. It was a loose weave not suitable for clothing, but it worked perfectly for this project. I liked the look of this fabric with the denim.

To start off, I figured out how much longer the skirt would need to be so that I’d be comfortable sitting down.

testing out the new length carefully so I don’t get stabbed with a pin

I thought about making it longer, but I didn’t want the amount of added fabric to overwhelm the original skirt. This length works for me.

After figuring out how long I wanted my strip to be, I cut a piece of fabric twice that length (plus seam allowance) and a couple inches longer than the bottom edge of the skirt. I folded the fabric in half long ways, right-sides together and sewed along the length forming a long tube.

the pressed tube

Then I took the tube, turned it right side out, and pressed it on both edges. I laid the seamed side of the tube along the hem of the skirt, centering the middle of the tube with one of the side seams of the skirt. Make sure the existing seam on the skirt hem is no longer visible as you lay the fabric on top.

After everything was pinned, I folded one of the raw edges of the tube under until it matched up with the seam. Then I slipped the other raw end inside the tube and topstitched, creating a completed circle of fabric around the bottom of the skirt.

inserting the tube’s raw edge into the turned under edge

Since the bottom fabric was thin and the denim hem was quite thick, I decided to simply lay the fabric on top and topstitch the tube onto the bottom of the skirt. There’s a different way to lengthen a dress and attach your fabric mentioned on Sew Kate Sew this week.

I’d planned to do a second row of topstitching right underneath and possibly topstitch the hem, but I liked the way it looked with minimal stitching. The whole process took about 30 minutes from start to finish, mostly because I’m a slow and exacting pinner.

Now I have an embellished skirt that I’m able to sit down in!

shirred skirt with pockets, or how I got back into sewing

Several years ago, my mom and I went on a mother-daughter trip to Amish country in Ohio. We stayed at an inn that used to be a barn where the owner made us delicious breakfasts and showed us the quilts and quilt patterns she was working on. I’d picked out a pattern from one of my mom’s quilting books before we left, and with that in hand we drove around in the snow to all these little quilt shops to find coordinating fabrics.

I cut the blocks on a later trip home (I was still in college) and in the summer of 2008 I started sewing the blocks together by borrowing my mom’s nice new sewing machine for the summer while I was working as an intern. Then I studied abroad for a semester, had another internship, and got a full-time job. My mom bought me my own sewing machine for my birthday, but it went sadly unused for some time until I decided I should get my quilting stuff out of her craft room and start working on it again.

Then there was a fire at my apartment and I lost basically everything. As a crafter, my losses included that quilt top I’d pieced together; a wallhanging I’d been nearly done hand-quilting; a crocheted sweater coat I’d nearly completed; and some crocheted pillow covers I was making for my brother to go with his queen-sized bed afghan. I was very thankful that I’d already given him the afghan and that these quilts were at my parents’ house.

I hand-quilted every inch of this. It currently lives on my parents’ bed.

After my quilt top was lost, I wasn’t so big on sewing anymore. My mom bought me the same sewing machine again and I made simple curtains for the 14 windows in the rental house I’m living in now and that was pretty much it. Then last summer I found this blog, Running with Scissors. I don’t remember how I found out about the blog, but one of the first projects I saw was a tutorial for a shirred skirt with pockets where Jessica suggested using a thrifted sheet as fabric.

I’d already been thrifting clothes and things for the house, but had never thought about using a sheet as fabric. It was like a lightbulb went off. I found a brightly colored sheet (similar in color to Jessica’s first skirt) in good condition at the thrift store and got my mom to send me elastic thread since our local store didn’t have any. I was nervous about working out the measurements and shirring, but I took a deep breath and went forward anyway. Before long I had a completed wearable garment.

This was the first article of clothing I’d sewn for myself since high school. After making this skirt, I went on a sewing tear last summer until I was halted by my months-long issue of getting my sewing machine repaired. I replaced sewing with crochet during that time and as soon as I got my machine back in January it’s been full-speed ahead. My growing pile of completed projects lead to me start this blog in March.

I used the hemmed side of the sheet for the hem, and this pink sheet has been seen in many other items I’ve made (here, here and here). I took a little time a few weeks ago to fix the “guts” of my skirt from last summer and the pockets I’d screwed up when I printed the pattern out.

So here it is: the skirt that got me back into sewing.

You can see a peek of the shirring in this photo.

I didn’t wear skirts much previously, but this summer I’ve embraced them. I especially like the orange and pink “sunset colors” combo. The shirt (J.Crew, $1) and shoes (Steve Madden, $1) both came from yard sales.

I’m so glad that this skirt clicked with me for whatever reason and I rediscovered my love of sewing. It’s been a fun year of craftiness so far and I’m looking forward to the projects ahead.

Many mosquitos bites were suffered for these photos. Thanks to Laura for taking them!

moon water clutch

I’ve been intending to make the moon water clutch pattern from Lion Brand Yarn for some time now. I started it a couple times and had trouble with the rows, but when I picked up the first few rows again it worked out somehow.

I used the acrylic I Love This Yarn! that I used to make my granny hexagon bag. I love the bright colors together and I had lots of yarn leftover from making the bag.

So here’s my vibrant take on the Moon Water Clutch.

I filled in my starting rows to create a solid line inside instead of my ending rows like the instructions say. The ending rows looked better as a flap and I liked the way the blues lined up. I had to improvise half fill-ins on the ends of the starting, and the flap doesn’t lay as flat on the outside but I like it better this way than I would have the other way. (There are supposed to be three points on the flap instead of two and two half-points.)

Here’s what the fill-ins look like. The white part was my beginning row, and I used the purple and green to fill-in.

Once I got into it, it was easy to work on while watching TV. I enclosed all my loose yarn ends from changing colors as I went instead of having to weave them in at the end. Here’s the back shot. I still really like these colors together.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this clutch, but I like how it turned out and am glad it’s completed. It’s always nice to see a project you envisioned come into fruition.

I also wanted to say thanks to Sew Much Ado for mentioning my baby peasant dress made from a vintage sheet and SuBoo for mentioning my thrifted shirt turned tiny pocket tank!