Upcycled Girls’ Skirt Tutorial

whole skirt
Who has two thumbs and loves to upcycle? This Girl!!

This skirt started out as a pillow case and a t-shirt that my daughters had outgrown. The width of the pillowcase was just big enough to make a dirndl skirt in a girls size 6/7. It was super easy to do and for decoration, I made a flower out of the T-shirt and a petal out of quilting scraps. The most time consuming part was sewing the flower on, but it was worth it!

Step 1:

Sew side seams and serge or use a french seam. (I prefer the latter.)

french seam

Step 2

Hem the skirt. (I love to use my Dritz EZY-HEM tool.)

Step 3

Make the elastic casing at the waist by turning under 1/4″ and again another 3/4″. Sew very near the fold, leaving a couple inches to insert the elastic.

Step 4

Measure the waist and cut 1/2″ elastic to that measurement plus an extra inch for seam allowance. Using a safety pin on the end of the elastic, insert through the casing you just sewed. Once it is all the way through, sew the elastic ends together. I like to sew in a box or an X for extra strength. Whatever method you use, just sew the heck out of it so it doesn’t come apart on you. Top-stitch the waist to close up the hole you left for the elastic.

Step 5

Cut one long strip of a knit fabric. Establish the placement of the flower and sew one end of the knit onto that point. Twist the knit fabric like a rope and wrap it in a spiral around itself as you sew it to the skirt.

Just flower

Step 6
Cut 2 leaf shapes out of green fabric and sew the curved edges together. (Right sides together, of course.) Turn the leaf out and iron. Tuck the unfinished side under the flower and stitch onto the skirt.

Flower and leaf

That’s it. You’re done!

Skirt 2

Oh What a Difference a Dress Makes!


Full Back

Better a bird in the hand than two in the bush. Or, in an econo-designer’s words, better one cute dress in hand than two vintage sheets. Yes, I’m that econo-designer and yes, I coined that phrase… Was it obvious? (Wonder Woman was taken.)


Me- Front


This project was a labor of love. The love? Patternmaking. The labor? I’ll not go into too many of the ups and downs, but it was quite the multi-step project!
The trouble was, I didn’t have a working pattern sloper set to draft from. I got rid of the one we made in design school, and it’s always been my goal to make a new one…custom made to my measurements. I’ll post all about how I went about it for those of you interested in pattern making, but for now it’ll suffice to say that it’s really no fun measuring and pinning onto yourself. Ouch. And that making, fitting, and adjusting a basic bodice and skirt template to make other patterns from is a whole project in itself.
Now that I’m staying at home, I finally have time to delve back into the world of my beloved patterns. I do not, however, have any money for fabric! (The crux of following one’s dream.) As I previously posted, I found this cute sheet for $1.50 at Goodwill and got a beige one that I bleached for the lining for $2.00.
I made a preliminary sketch and made the pattern off of that. Design school all over again. What I failed to do was make a muslin mock-up. My pattern making teacher would be so disappointed. I’m out of muslin and, did I mention, broke, so I though it would be okay to skip that “little detail.” No bueno.
In the end, though, it turned out pretty well. I absolutely love the double hem! I like the buttoned criss-cross back, too. I stumbled upon that by happy accident. (I LOVE happy accidents!) I determined the length of the straps on my dress form, which turned out to be totally different from what I needed. I, of course, sewed before fitting and ended up with too-short straps, which I found were very cute in an X. Thanks to my crafty ingenuity, (I come from a long line of rednecks) I realized the altered design could work if I used buttons, which happened to go very well with this style of dress.
I’m pleased with the finished product and the overall growth I feel I’m making on my journey back to being a designer. I hope this inspires my fellow crafters and seamstresses.
Here are some pictures of the various stages of this project:
Cutting out

Pattern Packet

Marking strap placement

Sewing bodice


All Pieces

Bodice Sizing

Bodice Closeup

Finished Hem closeup- Use

Here’s a picture of some strap experimentation that went on when I realized I cut them too short. I didn’t use it for this dress, but I really like this design for future dresses. What do you think?
Strap expiramenting

The Moral of Today’s Story?
Power through, and when you come to an obstacle, use it to your benefit!
Also, make a mock-up! Don’t make your Pattern Making teachers mad!

Happy Sewing!!

Hand Stitched Baby Tee From Old T-shirts

Shirt on binder Stretch stitch binding

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love, love, love hand sewing with knits!
I try to alternate projects – a hand sewing project with a machine sewing project. (By alternate I mean juggle and scramble between the two in a very haphazard manner.)
There is something so artistic about working with the fabric by hand. The downside? It takes, like, mucho time! So my brilliant idea for balancing out the lengthy time with the fun and artistry of this type of work was to make a baby T-shirt. Now, a shirt for a cute, teensy-weensy newborn baby can’t possibly take very long, can it? That was my thought, and it turns out, my thought was wrong. This method of sewing, no matter the physical size if the project, is simply time consuming. Is it worth the time? My answer is a resounding yes! Does that mean I plan on turning to needle wok and embroidery full steam? Heavens no! I have kids and a cat to take care of- I don’t have time for that! But I will keep pumping out projects stitched by hand here and there. Once you’ve made one, it’s hard to forget. It’s like coffee in that respect. Try as I may, I could never let it go completely!
   Now to the details of what I did and how to construct one yourself.
I bought a newborn baby shirt at Goodwill. (I made sure to get the kind that separates at the neckline instead of snaps. I avoid inserting snaps like action stars avoid grenades!) I also got two blue T-shirts in different shades. I used the darker one for the trim and to stitch the baby’s name on the front.
Next, I made the pattern. This just involves tracing the pieces onto paper and adding seam allowance with a quilter’s ruler.


Cutting comes next. Make sure the fabric is on grain. You can’t just use the side of the T-shirt as a guide…they are often cut off grain to begin with. (Ever have a T that you wash once and the side seams twist on you? That’s the reason.) I prefer to use my handy-dandy pattern weights instead of pins for cutting. (Although my set of 6 is down to 3. Thank you, daughters of mine!)

All Pieces
Okay, here’s the fun part…sewing. Again, you’ll be a while doing this, so you can turn on a good flick or even take the project with you and sew somewhere else or in the car. (Only if you are riding, you maniac. :)) One of the benefits to this kind of sewing is the portability. You can take it anywhere you could take crochet or knitting.
It was much easier to sew the letters of the baby’s name on the shirt front before it was sewn together, especially since it was so small. I’d recommend doing any decorating or embroidery at this stage, unless something is going to cross over a seam.

For any of these projects with binding of trim, I stitch that on first. I use a running stitch. You have to sew the binding on first, right sides together, then flip it, tuck it under, pin, and top stitch. You can then use a running stitch to top stitch. Just make sure you pull the fabric before you tie it off so the thread is loose enough to have stretch. Or, like I did on this shirt, you can use a stretch stitch. The one I used is the only one I’ve actually mastered that I found in a book by Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin.

Binding pinning

Stitch binding on

Iron Binding

Binding ready to topstitch

Binding flip close up

Stretch stitch binding

After the binding is sewn on, it’s time to sew the garment together. I prefer the set-in sleeve method, so I did the side seams first then the sleeves.
I use French seams when I do projects by hand. They give them such a high quality finished look! If you aren’t familiar, a French seam is where you sew a seam, grade it (cut one of the edges of the seam shorter than the other) then fold the longer side over the shorter one, tuck it under and sew so there are no raw edges. It also doubles as top stitching, which is so beautiful on these. I have found that it works best for me to put one seam (including the French seam part) totally together before moving on, but I guess that’s a matter of preference.

Once the shirt was together, I hemmed it with the same stretch stitch I used on the binding, only I made it bigger for the hem.
This is such a fun and simple technique that anyone can do. You don’t have to have a sewing machine to make clothes! It works for all sorts of garments. My kids and I have tons of hand-stitched knit clothes I’ve made…even pants…and they hold up really well in the wash and are durable to wear.
            The moral of the story is this:
Don’t let anything hold you back, including not having a sewing machine.
And although babies are tiny, everything related to them is hard work!



Upcycle Plans

If Goodwill were a person, I’d be a stalker. It was there that I found this vintage floral fitted sheet for…wait for it… a dollar fifty!!



I wanted to do something with a fairly open back, so this is the design I came up with. I may tweak it a little as I go, but I plan on sticking closely to this silhouette.


Easy Peasy Cheapy DIY Labels

Need a new use for puff paint you may have lying around? (Since it’s not the 1990’s anymore!) Use it to write your name or the name of your line onto bias tape, spaced about an inch apart. Sew these labels into the back neckline or waist of the garments you sew, turning under a half inch at the ends and stitch at a quarter inch on either side. Since the bias tape is already turned in on the top and bottom, there’s no need to sew those. I like the boutique feel of these labels and they are durable enough to make it through the washer and dryer. You can also sew them diagonally into the corner of a quilt for bragging rights.



5-3-13 179



Somethin’ for My Honey

Plaid Shirt-Finished!!!

Plaid Shirt-Finished!!!



   I have a metaphorical nickel for anyone who gets the song reference from the title of this post. No Montell Jordan fans? Tough crowd.

   The last time I made a foray into the men’s shirtmaking world for my husband was kind of a bust. And by bust, I mean that my father ended up with a hand-made Christmas present a couple years ago due to a novice sizing error. (And for those of you who’ve heard the stories- yes, that’s also how I ended up giving my Dad boxer shorts. And for those of you who haven’t heard the stories- yes, it was as creepy and awkward as it sounds.) Needless to say, I’m more cynical about sewing pattern sizes these days, so for this little number I went with a regular large. I still had to take an extra 1 1/2″ off of the side seams, but Large was still the best bet since my husband has pretty wide shoulders. (As he should, his wife can be quite a handful, I hear.)

   A huge goal of mine is to get better at sewing, and I’ve always said there’s no better practice than men’s shirts. The last couple days I was reminded of why that is…it’s because they’re such a tremendous pain in the old tuchus! I LOVE to sew, but shirt collars really rub me the wrong way. That moment after you’ve sewn the inside piece in place and turn it over to see  just how badly you’ve missed the line on the other side is like no other moment in life. Okay, so the collar turns over that point and no one except you and the dry cleaner will see it. (That is, if you use a dry cleaner and you don’t just throw it into the wash and pray, like me!) But even the flaws no one else will see- or notice- are really hard for the seamstresses I know to get over.

   Doing projects that require great acuracy, skill, and patience is the only thing that will make us grow as seamstresses. Getting over that perfectionism hump is only accomplished when you just become determined enough to get good that you’re willing to be bad in order to get the practice that the skill you want to build requires. My friend who is a beautiful quilter with an even more beautiful heart worked up the moxie a couple years ago to become a free motion quilter. Watching her progress, I saw that perfectionism was her biggest obstacle. But I watched her work grow from squiggles on a quilt sandwich to beautiful quilts and I know she’ll eventually complete amazing works of art. Why? Because she loves the art form. She told herself if other people can do it, she can do it, too. And because of that, she created lots of work that got progressively better. 

   This blog, and my whole sewing journey, is dedicated to that spirit. Right now, I’m not the seamstress or designer that I want to be one day. But you know what? I’m closer after this project than I was last week. There are places on this shirt that I’m not 100% pleased with. But I’ve made up my mind not to let perfectionism keep me from becoming great. And I want to inspire other people to progress, as well. We were created to create and when we fulfill that purpose, we reflect our Creator.

   The moral of the story:  Don’t be afraid of being bad. It’s how you get good. Also, don’t             give your father underwear.

  Here are some additional pics of my adorable sewing buddy who, by the way, is not a perfectionist, but is a lover of small spaces and naps:

.image My Sewing Companion