shirts to bags

Bringing home a guest post from Magda’s Refashion July over at House of Estrela. I finished Emma’s romper and made a curtain over the weekend. Photos to come soon!

Thanks so much to Magda for letting me be a part of Refashion July!

A few years ago I never thought about buying clothes at a thrift store, but now I’m a thrifting and refashioning convert!

One of the things I seem to make the most of is bags. Some of my first “refashions” were taking button down shirts and turning them into totes.


This blue and white striped one is one of my favorites. I took a “loud” button down that I loved the color of and converted it into a beachy tote bag.

I sewed the button placket closed, added a couple of yellow buttons, and just cut out the fabric according to the pattern I was using.

I used one of the cuffs to make a little pouch to throw inside.


I made this tote bag from another striped thrift store shirt.


I took the pocket and cuffs and sewed them to the lining for extra storage!


I’ve also used sweaters to make several bags.

sweater totesA

Clockwise from top left: green sweater tote with vintage sheet lining, purple sweater tote, yellow sweater bag with pockets, pink sweater clutch, sweater vest and satin bag

My most recent refashion project on my blog, Photosarah Crafts, was taking a denim shirt and adding some patriotic plaid.


I hope you’ll stop by and visit me! (Obviously you already have, so thanks!) I’ve got many more refashions, plus lots of sewing, crochet, and knitting going on!

There are lots of great refashioners out there, and I’ve found even more through this series! Thanks again to Magda for getting everyone together!


baby bibs for Bama

Shortly after I posted pictures of the baby bibs I made for Craft Hope on my Facebook page, I got a message from my friend Natalie. She wanted a few bibs for gifts for her co-workers who are expecting little ones in the next few months. One of my resolutions for this year is to stop procrastinating (and I’ve been doing pretty well) so I got going on those bibs. For two little boys, I made two tie bibs and one bandana bib as Natalie had requested.

My first bib was pretty similar to the tie bib I made for Craft Hope. I used a lighter blue felt for the tie and another part of my brother’s old shirt for the background. The back was navy like the first version.


When I went to make my second tie bib, I realized my stash is short on “boy” fabrics. I’ve seen a lot of sewing for boys lately that uses nontraditional fabrics, but didn’t want to take that risk when sewing for someone I don’t know. I did have a yellow gingham in my stash and paired it with a navy tie to make it definitively boyish.


I bought this polka dot fabric several months ago specifically because I didn’t have much any boy fabric. Not that this fabric is specifically for boys, because the first project I used it on was a bag for my friend Amanda. I made it more definitively boy by not using it as a purse lining (haha) and putting it with a brown remnant.


The fabric I had left wasn’t wide enough to cut out a 13″ square so I ended up making a smaller bib with 11″ squares. I didn’t have a baby to test it on, but the opening seemed reasonably wide.

And then I sent them off to Natalie. I added a red mug cozy (Roll Tide!) just to make the package more fun for her.


gratuitous cat appearance

So at some point this summer, a couple of brand new little boys in Alabama might be wearing bibs I made! Nice.

baby bibs for China

My latest sewing project has been for Craft Hope. Project 20 is making bibs for orphans in China (more info on their Facebook page). I decided this would be a great opportunity to try out some of the bib tutorials I’ve been adding to my Pinterest board for babies and kids. It’s also been great for using fabric and notions from my stash.


The first three bibs, cut out and ready to go.

I came up with a list of several bib tutorials and sewed six bibs for the project.

#1 – a whale of a bib

tutorial: applique boy bib from skirt as top

fabric: leftover from boyfriend’s mom’s apron, thrifted flannel

modifications: used flannel instead of terry for the backing, used felt instead of fabric and fusible web for the applique

This is my favorite bib so far. I just love that cute little whale! I used a wider stitch to sew on the whale because the standard blanket stitch didn’t look right. I put the eye on using this french knot tutorial. (It was so much simpler than I thought!)


#2 – baby apron a.k.a. the bapron

tutorial: bapron tutorial from craftiness is not optional

fabric: leftover lining from yellow sweater purse, thrifted flannel, thrifted bias tape (leftover from the cowboy crochet hook case)

modifications: none! made as instructed.


This seems like a great idea, but I don’t have kids currently so it’s a bit hard to tell how well it would work out a baby. It looks so cute on the “model” though! It was easy to put together and I’d definitely make it again.

#3 – simple polka dot bib 

tutorial: simple baby bib from Shwin&Shwin

fabric: leftover polka dots from baby car seat blanket, thrifted flannel, brown remnant

modifications: used flannel instead of batting for the middle section

I tried something different on this bib and quilted around the circles with the top and middle sections basted together. It didn’t turn out as nicely as I liked because it’s hard to sew tiny precise circles on a machine. Here’s the back view before I put the bib together.


So it was a cool idea that lacked a bit in the execution, but will still function to protect babies’ clothes from food 🙂


I really liked the simplicity and shape of this bib pattern and can see myself making it again. The button was a cute touch too.


I made an exact copy of this bib for a friend whose sister was having a baby, minus the quilting. I used velcro instead of a button for the closure and the whole thing turned out well.

#4 – tie bib

tutorial: simple baby bib from Shwin&Shwin as the base, tie pattern for use on a onesie

fabric: an outgrown shirt of my brother’s from my mom’s mending pile, leftover navy for the background, navy felt for the tie

modifications: I created this by making the bib as suggested and adding the felt tie applique on the front. I used velcro instead of a button once again.

It turned out pretty well, but when I make it again it’ll make the bib a little longer or the tie a bit shorter.


#5 – button down bib

tutorial: button down bib pattern and tutorial

fabric: an outgrown shirt of my brother’s from my mom’s mending pile, leftover navy for the background, leftover white bias tape

modifications: I had to eliminate the pocket and button placket idea and just cut out a regular section of the shirt. No buttons are allowed on the front of the bib for the project, and my pocket had a stain.

I would have liked to follow this tutorial more exactly as far as pattern placement, but the shirt had a few tiny stains on the pocket. It would have looked really cool as illustrated, but it turned out okay this way. I think I’d add a layer of flannel in the middle next time to give it more weight.

#6 – bandana bib

tutorial: bandana bib tutorial from The Purl Bee

fabric: leftover navy again, leftover fabric from my new apron

modifications: I tacked down the whole folded edge of the bib to secure it all the way across.

This is my second favorite of the bibs I made. (Maybe one day I’ll make an whale bandana bib. Hmm…) I loved these fabrics together and this bib is definitely a functional fashion statement! I liked the simplicity of the large snap closure.


front view

Just be careful if you’re a perfectionist using a grid-like pattern. Trying to make my fabric line up diagonally and horizontally drove me a little crazy.


and back view

And those are the bibs I’ll be sending off to Craft Hope shortly!


the whale bib’s eye wasn’t done in time for the group shot.

I had fun picking out fabrics from my stash and putting these bibs together. Plus when friends have babies, I know I’ll be able to whip out some cute bibs.

That’s one charity sewing project done for 2013 so far. I’d like to get to work on some more soon.

button-down refashions

I avoided button-down shirts as a whole for awhile because the top buttons always seemed about to bust open. If I found a shirt and the top fit, it was too baggy overall. Recently I’ve found shirts to be more accommodating, made with stretchier fabric or knit panels at the sides. I’ve also figured out how to alter shirts so they fit throughout.

Here are a few of the shirts I’ve altered recently. All of these shirts are thrift store finds.

This first one was great except for one thing.

Seriously. It had pieces to button up the bottom on the sides of the shirt, but since it was so wide it didn’t help much. I chopped a big chunk out of there, still leaving room for some hips, and ended up with this. I mentioned the part about hips because if you don’t take them into account and only consider the waist measurements you’ll end up with too slim of a fit and the front will gape at the bottom. I’ve done/almost done this a few times now.

But this one turned out fine. It’s much better, and I like the color with my new wine/oxblood/burgundy skinnies.

This second one had a standard neckline that buttoned all the way up. I modified it by turning down the top corners at angle and topstitching to give it a more open neckline. I also replaced the large, ugly tan buttons with shiny white ones. I’m still debating how I feel about the multi-colored polka dots, but I’ll hold onto the idea of this neckline.

This one didn’t work out. I’m posting it here because sometimes button placement and the style of the shirt just don’t work without some serious refashioning (that I didn’t feel like taking on). I took the sleeves and the body in, but just wasn’t feeling it. I’ll donate this shirt back but you could also turn a failed shirt refashion into a bag or a tank.

I did like the fabric, so I think I’m going to buy some black gingham and start from scratch with New Look 6010.

This last one is the main event. I was drawn to the on-trend polka-dots but they weren’t looking very trendy when I first found this shirt. A few changes and this shirt is retro chic instead of sadly outdated. (Btw, the brand name on this shirt is “Poochie Sport” because you can’t make this stuff up.)

This shirt required a number of changes to go from boxy to flattering. I took in the sides with a curve to give it shape; took in and shortened the sleeves and reattached the cuffs after narrowing them; replaced the white buttons with black ones from my stash, and added an extra button and hole to the bottom.

I also sewed some snaps between the buttons at the top to keep the placket from gaping when I’m wearing it. I do that on a lot of my button-down shirts.

buttons close up

new cuff close up

And here’s a shot of me wearing the before and after. I don’t purposely make the before pictures look awful; they just tend to turn out that way because I care more about the finished shots. You can see the lack of a buttonhole more clearly in the before shot. I don’t know why the buttons just ended midway down the shirt.

I’m really happy with how the finished product turned out. I bought new skinny jeans and a denim button-down from Target and a lacy cream and black polka dot tank from Old Navy last week. With this polka dot button-down (especially paired with my burgundy skinnies which look black in this photo) my fall wardrobe is coming together!

Linking up at Recycled Fashion.

not-so-tiny pocket tank

Here’s another button-down shirt refashion using the tiny pocket tank pattern. I wanted a funky print, and I found it in this thrifted button-down shirt. It was a serious funky shirt, and I should have taken a before picture. Despite it being a women’s shirt, it looked more like a men’s shirt. There were two pockets on the front, the cut was very boxy and it had chunky navy buttons. In spite of this, the curved hem went up several inches on the sides in a definite feminine touch.

To get started, I cut the shirt apart (I’ve realized that 1/4-1/2″ of fabric isn’t worth the trouble of ripping) but I kept the hem on the bottom. I removed the pockets and used the front as the back, replacing the buttons with the mother-of-pearl like buttons from my other tiny pocket remake.

Here’s a hint: if only one of your darts looks good and the other dart is a bit funky at the point, just put your pocket over that dart! As long as it’s just a small issue, it will cover it right up.

The pocket is from the original shirt, and a little hard to see, but it’s right there.

Since this version didn’t have a lining I did use the bias binding. I just bought some navy fabric long enough to accomodate the piece on the diagonal. (I measured it out on a scrap piece of fabric first.) The binding worked out pretty darn well for me, and it looks so nice and finished.

Since I’d taken a couple inches out of the straps, I wasn’t sure if the binding would fit. I left the back able to be buttoned up so I had the extra part of the placket to cover as well. It fit exactly, so I’m not sure how that worked out. I sewed a snap at the top corner of the placket after attaching the bias binding so it would lie flat, and voila! A new summer top.

I don’t think I’ve cut one of these tanks out as wide as they were supposed to be since there’s been limited fabric in cutting the shirts. I might be trying this again soon, maybe with the scout tee pattern, since I picked up four funky men’s button downs for a buck a pop at a yard sale a couple weeks ago. I’m not sure how the lack of darts will work on that pattern, but I’ve still got new fabric and patterns for three more fitted blouses ready to be cut out and sewn up.

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.