Gray and Black Lace Tank

Today has been a long day, but oddly enough, not much has gotten done in the way of “final” products. I’ve made most of an underbust corset, gone to the fabric store for supplies for a project I’m doing for my aunt, bought metal eyelets, and knitted. However, it wasn’t until a few minutes ago that I got around to making my Item Of The Day. I was struggling for inspiration, you see.

Finally, it struck when I found a bunch of gray knit jersey left over from an ill-advised dressmaking project. (Where does all this stuff come from?? Did I sew a lot more than I remember as a child?) It was kind of a mess, all bunchy and tangled, but I managed to get it into some semblance of order:

After that, I spent some time doodling ideas, at least one of which will become another shirt.

I think I want to make the cloud one; it’s a little cutesy, but I did just make a shirt with an anchor applique. Clearly, being cheesy is not my biggest fear any longer. But I also like the idea of making a gray tank top with cutouts that show orange tulle underneath. Perhaps in the shape of an orange.

After some cutting, some sewing, and some swearing, here’s the final shirt:

This picture tells you a couple of things. First, that I’m tired; I’ve been up for quite a while. Second, that this shirt is too small for me; I used another shirt as a template and this fabric wasn’t as stretchy. This shirt goes straight into the shop. Which is a shame, because I rather like it. Maybe I’ll make a bigger one out of the leftovers…


Recycled Cuteness–Tutorial!

Hello, good folks out there in readership-land! Today I have for you a tutorial for a thing that I made in a very un-tutorial-like fashion. You see, I’ve been wanting to do a t-shirt remake for a while now, but I didn’t know where to start. So I started out with a plan for a sort of colorblock dress, and ended up with a nautical-themed two-tone tank top. Luckily, I documented the process, and you can now have your very own! Here it is, so you can decide whether or not you want one:

This project is an excellent way to use up the collections of useless t-shirts that a lot of people (cough, me, cough) accumulate. Check your closet for materials before you go out and buy. And remember: upcycling is cheaper than buying new.


  • One white, baggy t-shirt. It can have writing on it, as long as there’s about 11″ that doesn’t have anything printed on it at the bottom, and maybe a little extra at the sides or top for straps.
  • One blue t-shirt. This one doesn’t have to be baggy. It can also have writing on it.
  • Two buttons in either white or blue
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Sewing Machine (or needle and thread, yadda yadda)


  1. Cut off the bottom of the blue shirt, as close to the bottom of any lettering as possible. In fact, leave just the bottom edge of the lettering; you can hide it in the seams. If you have a smallish blue shirt, as I did, you’ll want as much material as possible on the bottom. When paired with the white shirt, it should look like…absolutely nothing. See photo:
  2. Turn the piece of the blue shirt inside out and put it over your head. Using the Pinch-and-Pin Method, which is exactly what it sounds like, follow the contours of your body. Don’t poke yourself with a pin a million times like I did. Pull this new tube off over your head, reposition any pins that don’t form a smooth line, and sew along the line of pins. Remember to take out the pins as you go; if you sew over a pin it will FLY OFF AND HIT YOU IN THE EYE AAAAAAGH* Your new tube should look something like this:
  3. Take out that white baggy t-shirt, and cut off the top, leaving no writing. Take this second tube and lay it out next to your contoured tube. Now here’s where things get tricky. If the white shirt is way bigger than the blue shirt, slim it down by making a line of pins on either side so that the shirt is only about an inch wider on either side of the blue shirt. Sew along these lines.
  4. Turn both shirts inside out. Pin the side seams together so that that ugly edge sticks out, towards you. Now you have to account for that extra fabric on the top tube. Make pleats (fold the fabric over itself) twice on the left side, and twice on the right, as symmetrically as you can. Pin all the way around the shirt, doing the back in the same fashion. Sew up this seam.
  5. Fold the raw edge at the top of the white shirt, and then fold it over again, and pin in place. Sew this edge down so that no raw edge is visible.
  6. Make two straps. This is so easy. You take two pieces of fabric of a little more than twice the width you want, fold them over, sew, and then turn them inside out. Have a friend pin them into place on your shirt so that they cover your bra straps. Sew in place, and then sew a button over the join between shirt and strap in the front on either side.
  7. Now draw an anchor. Or print one off the Internet. I won’t judge.
  8. Cut out your anchor and use it as a template to cut out an anchor made of fabric from the sleeve of your white t-shirt. I decided that I wanted my anchor to be chubbier than the one I drew, so I would have room to sew it on.
  9. Now, pin your cloth anchor to your shirt where you want it. Sewing it’s gonna be hard, and I made the mistake of assuming it’d be easier with a piece of anchor-shaped paper over the anchor. If you’re going to do that, don’t do what I did: for the love of Pete, don’t glue it on. It will not come off and you’ll have to pick at it for about half an hour and hope that the little fragments come out in the wash.

Sew on your anchor, SLOWLY. You might want to do this by hand. Doing it by machine was kind of haphazard and dangerous because the machine always did one more stitch after I told it to stop.

Et voila! You are done!

The technique you just used, I am told, is called “applique.” You could probably look it up and use it to customize this shirt; it would probably look equally stunning as an aeronautical shirt with a zeppelin on it. Or you could make it in a different set of two colors and add a color-appropriate applique design of your own. Actually, come to think of it, why didn’t I make one with a zeppelin on it? Here’s a drawing of a zeppelin that I found on the Internet, so you can avoid my mistakes:

Don't forget--don't try to sell any item you make with another person's design on it! That's called plagiarism!

Don't forget--don't try to sell any item you make with another person's design on it! That's called plagiarism!

Meanwhile, over on the Craftster forums, the suspense continues as I wait to learn the winner of the challenge I entered. Stay tuned for more excitement and drama on that front.

*I’m not sure if this is true. It might be an urban legend. Take no chances.

Contest Dress, final product!

Last night I posted my finished dress on Craftster, and I’ve been getting an overwhelmingly positive response. I’m so happy, I’m daring to think I might win! In which case, I would get a lovely free t-shirt, as well as fame and glory. We can only hope.

This crafting challenge fits right into my philosophy as a crafter, which is to use old rather than new, to take what you’ve got and make it magical instead of running out and buying the new trendy thing. And I think I achieved that here.

Here is the dress. It’s all made out of the black bedsheet, and I’m still sort of amazed by how well it turned out. I tried darts for the second time ever, and I’m really coming to appreciate how much darts contribute to well-fitting clothing. This post is going to be a little photo-heavy because I’m so happy.

As you can tell, I’m ecstatic.

Stay posted for news on whether or not I won. I’ll be heading out to Portland, Oregon next week so I’m going to try and squeeze in a tutorial before I go, something to keep you all occupied, or at least amused at my folly. And I’ll be posting pictures of neat handicrafts and homemades that I find in Portland, which is famous for being the freakiest, weirdest place on the west coast. You excited? I know I am.

Craft Challenge! I love a challenge!

So I’ve recently discovered Craftster, this site where people like me endlessly post their finished projects, questions about crafting techniques, and other neat stuff. And–here’s the best part–they have challenges! Crafting challenges! With prizes!

The current challenge is bedsheet clothing. I think I can come up with something in the next few days, but I’m not sure if the sheet I have in mind can win. See, it’s black. Working with it is basically going to be like, you know…working with black cloth. Not that challenging. Furthermore, the dress that I’m making is ridiculously simple. It’s a black-on-black dress with a circle skirt and a fitted bodice, and while it’s going to be breathtakingly flattering and good-looking, it’s not exactly a wow piece. Here’s the work in progress:

I still need to fix the top edge, install a zipper, put in shoulder straps and hem it. But the tricky parts, the tailoring of the bodice and waist, are done. So I should be right on track for meeting the challenge deadline. I’m wondering if I can win through clever styling–wearing it with a pillowcase shirt or something. Tune in tomorrow, hopefully, for the finished dress.

Tutu? You, too? Youtube? Um…skirt.

Ever since I was about three years old, I’ve wanted a tutu. I think I even had one for a little while; if I didn’t, it certainly wasn’t for lack of begging. So today, to placate my inner child, I decided to make one.

I started with the traditional bunch-up-some-fabric technique; I cut about a million strips from my Giant Bolt of Orange Tulle (see photo), which lives in my room and taunts me with its impracticality. This was oddly relaxing.

Then I bunched up all of those strips, one at a time, and pinned them onto a waistband that I made out of two sleeves from a t-shirt–in fact, the same t-shirt that I used to make one of the tank tops in a previous entry, thus winning me many frugality points. Congratulating myself, I added a quadruple-layer of tulle underneath the strips for modesty’s sake and sewed the whole mess together. And here it is:

As you may notice, I made a few mistakes. First was that under the weight of all that tulle, the waistband stretched out, making it bunchy and weird and meaning that I had to add a drawstring to keep it around my body (that’s that weird little ribbon end emerging from my clothing.) Second, I didn’t realize just how…orange…this project was until I photographed it.

On the bright side, I think that the orange will look good in moderation–i.e., with another skirt over it. If I use it as a crinoline I can add a little bit of orange zing to everything without having to go around looking like CinderPumpkin.

As soon as I came downstairs to show my family, my aunt said, “Oh, neat! You know, I just bought you something like that, only black. Black taffeta. A…crinoline! That’s it!” So now I Have two. When it rains, it pours fluffy skirts, apparently.

The corset formerly known as sundress

Apparently, my entire house is supported structurally and insulated against the weather by failed projects from my childhood, because today I found a box jammed up against the wall under my bed with a bunch of deformed clothing in it.

One particularly weird item was an ill-fitting sundress–a kind of Marilyn Monroe style thing with a drapey halter neck–that I’d made out of plaid. Not just any plaid, either. An almost Burberry plaid, a warm-toned one that was less picnic blanket and more foul-weather scarf. Although I’ve got to give it to my past self, she was pretty fearless. In honor of her, I decided to try a project that was out of my league: a corset.

I found this great tutorial online, and then altered the pattern to make the bottom of my corset look like the bottom of a suit vest. I used some of my collection of vintage buttons that my grandmother gave me. And this, my friends, is how it went:

I was kind of inspired by this Vivienne Westwood piece, although my tailoring “skills” are not nearly that “mad”, as the kids would say. I like the idea of making clothes that are edgy because they’re a little bit stuffy and a little formal. But whereas she took a classic tailored shape and added an insane plaid, I took a pretty classic plaid and went with a weird shape. See what I did there?

Right about the time I was congratulating myself about how I was doing Interesting Things With Textiles and how I might someday be a Big Designer…I realized that the plaid was facing sideways on two of the panels. Other seamstresses will feel my pain.

Dumpster Fun!

Yesterday I visited some of my boyfriend’s friends in Fairfax. They’re lovely people, and we had a great time. (One is a crafter like me, and she showed me these neat coasters that she made out of floppy discs, but absentminded person that I am, I forgot to photograph them. They may appear in a later tutorial, if I can convince her to send me a photo or two. ) The point of this story is, this morning as we were leaving their apartment, we spotted a huge dumpster full of neat-looking things in their complex’s parking lot.

I’m going to tell you right now that I am not above dumpster diving. I love looking in trash. I avoid it if it looks like the trash is all paper or food waste, or if there’s a foul smell coming out of the dumpster, but when I see a prime awesome thing sitting right on top of a pile of clean stuff, there’s no way I’m not taking it. For example, this lovely basket:

See, it even still has its lid! And someone decided that they didn’t want it anymore, for some space-cadet reason of theirs. Oh,well. More for me. Dumpster diving is, as you’ve probably guessed, incredibly eco-friendly. It reduces landfill waste and puts used goods back into service. Reuse and home-grown remaking is almost always more energy-efficient than the recycling process. And on top of that, you’re saving yourself money.

If you want to try dumpster diving, prime places are anywhere that college students live. College students are sort of notorious for just throwing things away when they’re done with them, even if they’re still usable. As a college student myself, I can say that I’ve done that, and I’m not particularly proud of some of the useful things I left behind when I moved from my dorm into my apartment. A few things you should keep in mind:

  1. Stay away from upholstery. There’s been a recent bedbug epidemic on the eastern seaboard, and you don’t want to risk having your entire house infested with bedbugs. They spread very easily and the only way to get rid of them is to get rid of all your upholstery.
  2. Wear comfortable shoes and sturdy clothing.
  3. Don’t be stupid. “Safety is a major concern,” says Kat, an experienced diver. “Don’t go into any dumpster with a trash compactor, or any dumpster behind a food establishment.” She also recommends bringing along a set of tools, but for casual drive-by dumpstering, this may not be possible.
  4. Don’t climb into a dumpster in someone’s front yard. Stick to public ones. This is a little illegal, in the way that jaywalking is–don’t do it in front of a cop.
  5. Check over any item you get with the kind of eye you’d use at a thrift store or yard sale. Note any potential problems and whether or not you’ll be able to fix them. Don’t be seduced into a free thing that’s completely useless with your skill set/interests. For example, I left behind a broken chair that could probably have been fixed–by someone who has wood shop skills that I lack. I nearly lost a finger in wood shop class.
  6. Bring a friend. An extra pair of eyes is great for spotting things, and also for telling you when you’ve made a terrible mistake and have picked up something unfixable.
  7. Don’t bring your germ-phobic boyfriend. Mine nearly wouldn’t let me bring home this swell basket because he didn’t want it in his car; he eventually let me put it in his trunk. Some people just don’t understand the value of a big wicker storage basket…
  8. Disinfect. When you get home, put the item through whatever kind of wash you think it can handle. You don’t want fleas or other critters crawling out of your salvage.

Well, there you have it. Got a dumpster diving success story? Post it in the comments!

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