Turn a T-Shirt into Leggings!

IMG_2622T-Shirt into leggings- Why not, right?

Upcycling T-shirts is all the rage these day. One needn’t wander any farther than Pinterest, Craftsy, or just a good, old-fashioned Google search to stumble upon oodles of ideas: tank tops, boy shorts, purses, rugs. You name it; crafters have probably thought of a way to make it using repurposed t-shirts.

When repurposing garments, I typically like to take them completely apart and use the fabric, not too much of the stitching. That way, it’s like making something from scratch, which I feel better about. That’s not to say I haven’t cut off ugly sleeves, shortened hems, and revamped old dresses and other articles of clothing. That can be really fun and definitely makes great before and after shots, but my preference is really to design from the ground up.

Upcycling is a great way to get your feet wet in the sewing world. Whether you’re brand new to sewing and just want to get in some practice or you’re an experienced seamstress and are just looking for economical projects, it’s a fantastic option. And as my followers know, you don’t even need a machine to get started sewing clothes. I used my serger for this project, which made it super fast, but if you don’t have a machine, aren’t comfortable sewing knits yet, or if you just love the artistic goodness of the hand-stitched look, whip out your needle and thread and read a couple of my tutorials and posts on hand sewing knits to get started!

Baby T-shirt Tutorial

Upcycled Tank Top

Little Girl’s Tank

Here’s what you’ll need for this project:

    A Pattern (If you don’t have one, use a pair of leggings as a guide to make one. Just add seam     allowance.)

    One or multiple T-shirts

    1/2 Inch elastic for the waistband

    Thread

    A sewing machine, serger, or hand sewing needle

    Scissors

Step 1: Prepare or make the pattern. I used a pair of yoga pants to make this pattern.
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Step 2: Cut out the fabric. I used a cool graphic tee and one with a contrasting color for the foldover waistband. Ideally, I would like these leggings to be a little longer since my daughters are so tall, but since this t-shirt is very soft and thin, I decided these would be for Spring/Summer wear anyway and they’d be fine as capris.

I kept the hem at the bottom for ease of sewing and because I don’t have a cover stitch machine that will do that type of hem yet. I like to avoid the zig-zag stitch for knits if I can. Another option for taller kids would be to use another t-shirt and extend the pattern. Just sew the extra piece to the bottom of the pant legs before sewing the pant. IMG_2623

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Step 3: Cut the elastic. You can measure the waist of the pants you made the pattern from, follow the pattern package directions, or measure your child’s waist. I prefer the third method. That way, you get a wonderful fit the first time around.

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Step 4: Sew the pants together. I don’t have step-by-step pics for the sewing portion, but if you’re a sewing newbie, feel free to ask questions in the comment section.

My favorite way to sew pants is to sew the inseam and outseam (this pattern only has one seam per leg, so I just folded each leg over and sewed that seam) and then turn one leg right side out and put it inside the leg that is right side in, so that the right sides of each leg are facing each other and sew the crotch seam, being careful to match the inseam up on both sides. (Click here for an easy tip on how to do that well.)

If there’s a waistband, sew it on with the elastic inside. If there’s no waistband, sew the elastic together at the ends and roll the top of the pants down over it to make a casing and sew, using a zig zag stitch or cover stitch.

   For an example of an elastic casing, click on the picture below.photo 10

Do not sew the waistband or crotch with a straight stitch, because the threads will break as soon as the pants stretch! I wouldn’t recommend sewing the vertical seams with a straight stitch, either. With knits, your stitches must allow for stretch, or your kid may be looking at a pretty embarrassing day at school.

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The Moral of the Story:

If you have more time than money, upcycling is a fabulous way to pursue a hobby and get in your sewing fix.

Also, make use of that zig-zag stitch, please! Friends don’t let friends rip their pants.

Fashion Photography

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In my never ending quest to get better at all things fashion, sewing, and blog related, I’ve gotten back to practicing modeling. If you remember my Photo-Oh-No post, you know it’s an uphill battle! I teamed with my friend Duke, at his 2K1 Photography studio for these shots. If you didn’t see my previous post on some of his work, check it out HERE.

These aren’t my designs, but I did style the looks, which was really fun. Modeling is definitely harder than I would have thought, but I think with practice I’ll be able to take really good shots of my work for this blog. I’ve got dresses I’ve made that I want to share with you that I’ve held back on because my only option is the old selfie-in-the-mirror trick. It gets old. I’d really love to hear from any models and photographers out there on handy tips you’ve picked up. The hardest part for me is to not clench my jaw. The pics from this session were a little expressionless because I was so focused on the posing.

As always, I’m gladly accepting the challenge to learn something new and become great at it. That’s what life is about to me-learning and growing as people in the areas we’ve been gifted with talent or interest in. After  all we have to be willing to be bad for a while in order to become good. As a perfectionist, there are a lot of areas in life I’ve kind of bowed out on because I was too embarassed to look bad. That’s why I never played any sports. Well, that and a total lack of hand-eye coordination and general athletic ability. But I’m finding that with age, I’m gaining confidence-confidence to try and succeed and even the confidence to fail. What is failure, after all, but a step on the road to success?

I wish I had the attitude I have now when I was a teenager, but I certainly won’t let getting a late start hold me back. Sometimes I look at the 8 or 9  years after design school “wasted” that I could have spent in fashion. I think it would have been so much better to pay my dues in the industry when I was younger and to already be established now. Then when I step back from my pity party and look objectively, I think of the many wonderful people, experiences, and achievements God has blessed me with in that time. And I KNOW His timing is perfect. And I know He’ll make a way, even if that way is something totally unexpected. I spend most of my time being a complete stress case about things I can’t control, but I’m learning how to relax and trust Him for my life. As if I could ever make a better plan for myself than He can!

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How to Match Seams Easily

As you already know if you read this blog, I’m currently trying to get rid of some of my bad sewing habits, like sewing too fast and not doing enough prep work. Good preparation really saves you a lot of time in the end, and today I’m sharing this quick and easy tip for ensuring that your seams match up when joining two pieces.

Step 1: Pin the pieces together, putting the pin right through the stitch line, making sure it’s dead center in both pieces. If you do it correctly, the pin doesn’t even go through any fabric, just the tiny openings between stitches.

This pinning technique is one I actually learned from my quilter friend and I’d been pinning this way for a while when sewing things like a bodice to a skirt to make sure the side seams were in the same spot. Even so, I was still having a little trouble with the seams not ending up exactly straight. The reason for that is that I was skipping step 2.

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Step 2: Baste at that point using the width of your actual seam allowance. This allows you to open the fabric out and be sure the seams match. If you skip this step, you can end up with unmatched seams because as you sew (especially on curved or gathered areas) the fabric can shift slightly as you take out pins. There’s nothing like sewing an entire seam before realizing the pieces have moved around on you, right?

IMG_2912Step 3: Flip your pieces open and check the placement of the seam lines.

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IMG_2913Step 4: Do the same thing to any other places that need it. For example, if you’re pinning a waistband to a skirt, you’ll need to do this to both side seams. Then pin the rest and sew your entire seam.

Step 5: Enjoy the peace of mind you get from sewing KNOWING that your seams will match up! If you’re at all like me, you’ve probably lost a little sleep over that at some point in your life.

Happy Sewing!

LaLove Designs One-Shoulder Maxi Dress

IMG_2960How do you make Grecian modern? Sheer with stretch gold lame underneath was my method, and I’m really pleased with the result. My original intention was to make a bustier jumpsuit out of the silver fabric I used for the wrap, but I ran out of time, so I tried the gold knit I had for making my daughters’ gymnastics leotards and loved the effect! I even used it to make visible straps for the bustier underneath and a belt.

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IMG_2958This fabric would lend itself well to so many styles, and I have 2 or 3 yards left over, so I’m excited to play with it and come up with something different. I would love to see this draped asymmetrically, or in a shorter, funkier cocktail style dress.

Basting for Better Bodices Tutorial

IMG_2905Have you ever been frustrated by sewing princess seams? It seems I always get at least one pucker each time I sew gathered curves of any kind. You have one piece that’s already longer than the other and gathered by pins to the shorter piece, then you have to sew and try to feed both pieces in evenly so the longer one doesn’t slide down and create an unwanted ruffle.

I used to be much more impatient when sewing. In college when I was learning, I would skip steps and take shortcuts which led to pumping out a garment quicker, but not necessarily growing as a seamstress. This time around, I’m determined to put extra effort into planning, prepping, pressing, marking, cutting, and basting. Those things are so key in sewing and for me, this year is dedicated to learning how to sew as well as possible. (Click HERE to see my post Becoming an Expert Seamstress.) So little of sewing is actual sewing, and most of what goes into it are items from my previous list. The prep work is important and vital. Ever try to sew without pressing thoroughly? Betcha won’t make that mistake twice.

I’m finding also that the prep work I’ve avoided for so long really saves time! Making sure to do things right the first time is really pivotal to the process. It takes a lot longer to rip out an entire seam and re-pin and re-sew it than it does to hand baste before sewing.

I had never tried hand basting a gathered seam before stitching it before, but it really worked like a charm! This is a method I’ll be using from here on out because it eliminates a lot of the problems I had sewing this type of seam before. Primarily, I had trouble with the longer fabric being pulled by the machine and then buckling beside the pin. I’ve tried sewing with both sides down and had the issue both ways. It’s so simple to hand baste before and you know your fabric’s in the right place and you don’t have to deal with all those pins.

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Step 1: Pin the pieces together, gathering the fabric with the longer edge so they fit together. I don’t use many pins on straight seams, or even curved seams that aren’t gathered, but a gathered and curved seam is no place to skimp on pins, I can tell you that much!

IMG_2901You can see in this picture how it would be easy to get puckers when sewing!IMG_2903

Step 2: Hand baste the pieces together, taking the pins out as you go. My seam allowance was 1/2 inch and I tried to baste about 1/4 inch from the edge. You don’t want to stitch over the basting because it makes it hard to take out.IMG_2904Step 3: Sew using your actual seam allowance. I sewed with the gathered fabric underneath. If you do that, just make sure it’s not folding up on you under there or you’ll end up with a mess.

IMG_2905This is how it looks after sewing.

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Step 4: Cut off the knot at the end of your basting stitch.IMG_2907

Step 5: Remove the basting.IMG_2908

Here’s the finished seam. I love this method because you know it’s going to turn out well, since the fabric can’t shift as you sew.IMG_2902Step 6: Iron your seam, using a tailor’s ham if you have one. They make it so much easier to iron curve areas.IMG_2951Tailor’s Ham: A Handy little pressing tool!

I really hope this method helps you guys as much as it did me. Thanks for reading!

Fundraiser Dress

IMG_2895I have a fashion industry fundraiser this Saturday, and nothing to wear. . .as yet. I was on the fence about going because of the price of the tickets. Now that I’m staying home to be with my kids and design, I don’t feel great about dropping a bunch on an event, even though it means networking with people in the industry here in this state. Then my good friend read about the event in the paper, asked me if I had tickets, and told me I have to go when I said I was unsure. Thank God for people like her! Voices of reason, able to prioritize for me when I’m stumped. Sometimes others value my skills and interests more than I do.

This event is a premiere for the new issue of Pattern Magazine, a great Indiana based fashion magazine. The super cool thing about this  is that this issue spotlights race car drivers, some of whom will be there, with the event being held at the Indy 500 track. Admittedly, I won’t know who any of them are, but my husband has been a mechanic all his life. Almost Literally. He grew up with a wrench in his hand, helping and learning from his dad who owns a shop for repairs as well as restoring classic cars. He also did a lot of racing as a kid, so this is right up his, um, alley. (A little junior dragster pun for you there. You’re welcome. Or I’m sorry, depending on how you feel about puns-they’re very polarizing.)

Here’s the problem: I was wavering on my decision to go, so I didn’t get started on something to wear until last Friday. I got some amazing sheer gray fabric tiled with silver rectangles, and some thicker silver fabric for lining.

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I came up with the design using bias tape on my form, then drew it up from there. As always, I play it a little fast and loose with the details as I go along.

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IMG_2893I tried out fringey beads on the shoulder. Very possibly too much. We’ll see.

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IMG_2916Here’s the kicker… since it’s sheer, I really, really want to make a jumpsuit out of the silver to go under it. But I’m extremely short on time. Instead of making the pattern for both and then starting  to sew (and possibly running out of time with two completed patterns, and two half-sewn garments) I resolved to actually complete the dress before starting on the jumper. That way, if I run out of time, I can always add some lining to the dress, or make an easy little slip or bustier to go under. As pressed for time as I am, I still decided to sew a complete muslin of the bodice first – including interfacing, zippers, and all. I have to make sure this ends up with a great fit! The dress form drape ended up needing a ton of alterations- like 3 inches out of the top of the bodice. I’m very excited about getting better at custom fit, but more excited to get this finished! So for this week, at least until I’m confident it will all get finished, I’ll be posting my progress in short little bursts. Next week I’ll post some tips I’ve discovered during this process. I already have a couple to show you.

Wish Me Luck, Guys!

Picking out Patterns

Quick tip for making pattern shopping so much easier: use your camera phone! I used to jot down the numbers for all the patterns I liked as I went through the book, then by the time I got to the cabinet, I had forgotten which items the numbers are for. That can get a little daunting when you want to but a couple patterns, but have several items written down. Narrowing your selection is much easier having the pictures in hand, without going back to the catalogue, or scouring the bins for the patterns, pulling them all out, choosing the ones to buy, then putting the others back. All in all, I’m so happy that I didn’t have a pen in my purse when I went shopping at Joann Fabrics last time! Necessity truly is the mother of invention…or more and more reliance on our phones.

Whatcha Workin On Wednesday

IMG_2852Breaking out the Ol’ “Sew Retro” Craftsy vintage style sarong dress class and project. It’s been a while- I’m not even sure it still fits. It’s been on stand-by forever because I haven’t bought the supplies like the spiral steel boning it needs. I was going to put a black skirt on this, but I think I’m going to finish it as a bustier, and make the dress again from scratch in a nice shantung like the blue one she makes in the class. The instructor is Gretchen Hirsch, and let me just say she’s pretty wonderful! I love her little side note on how her husband cracks up every time she mentions using “boning.” I can definitely see how a guy would find the humor in that. She’s young, funny, tatted up, and she’s the author of Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing. You can find her at http://www.blogforbettersewing.com/

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