Sweater dress? Why, yes!

I went to the thrift store today with my charming friend Carli, and found, mysteriously, two sweaters that were exactly alike except for color. Same size, same brand, same everything. So, what did I do? I combined them!

It’s not the most flattering garment I’ve ever made; it has a tendency to hang. But it is incredibly warm and brightly colored, and it’ll be just the thing for chilly fall days. If those ever arrive. Keep your fingers crossed, folks.

I also had most of the blue sweater left over when I was done, minus some ribbing for the bottom and the bottoms of the sleeves. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to get that; I might have to sacrifice part of another sweater to do it, creating a vicious cycle of sweater alterations. I’ll post that one when it’s done, probably in the next few days.

Total cost for this dress? $10. And I get a second sweater out of it, to boot.


Dress Thing!

This isn’t a new tutorial, nor is it anything else remotely useful. But it is a new project! This is a variation on the tunic/dress I did earlier. I wanted a kind of loose dress that could be worn with or without a belt.

I’m thinking it’s too short to wear on its own, but I think it would look great with tights and boots. I’m trying to think of ways I could elongate it just another inch or so, but there’s no fabric left! (cue dramatic music.) I’m considering contrasting fabric, but I don’t want to interrupt the lines. With a longer shirt (perhaps a men’s extra-large tall), this wouldn’t even be a problem. I wonder if there’s a place where tall men all go to discard their used shirts…maybe a thrift store in a neighborhood populated by basketball stars…

Seven Ways to Dissect a Button-Down, Day 3: Modified T-shirt

And now we’re back on schedule with Seven Ways to Dissect a Button-Down, which is in retrospect, a really long name. Maybe I can just call it ButtonDownFest. Or something. Anyway, here’s project #3.

(Picture taken by TJ, boyfriend and photographer extraordinaire. He’s also really tall, as you can tell by the downward angle.)

I swore I’d never buy one of these shirts, the two-shirt hybrid. I tend to find them a little silly. But if the button-down is falling apart, or the t-shirt is falling apart, or if you have sleeves and a collar left over from another project, this is a good way to dress up the t-shirt and/or bolster a sad-looking neckline or sleeves, which is what I did. And I’m actually pleased with the results.

One note: for this shirt, I went with short, cuffed sleeves. If you do longer sleeves, instead of sewing the button-down sleeves to the very edge of the t-shirt sleeves, sew them at the shoulders instead. Otherwise they’ll be saggy.


  • 1 t-shirt that needs some stuff added to it
  • 1 button-down shirt, or sleeves/collar from same
  • A sewing machine, or needle and thread
  • Scissors


  1. Lay out button-down shirt, flat.
  2. Cut off collar and sleeves.
  3. Place t-shirt over collar and sleeves. Take  a gander and make sure it’s all you thought it’d be before you sew. Still good? Good.
  4. Pin the back of the collar to the back of the t-shirt. Sew.
  5. Pin the front of the collar to the front of the t-shirt and sew. Be sure to leave it unbuttoned, and don’t allow the two sides of the button-down collar to overlap when sewing. If you don’t, the neckline won’t fit over your head.
  6. Be sure to zigzag stitch all the edges of the button-down (which is now sewn into the shirt.) This will keep those edges from fraying.
  7. If you’re doing long sleeves, try the sleeve on your arm. If the sleeve is too baggy on your arm, take to your sewing machine. Turn it inside out and and sew it smaller, in the same genera area as the seam. Try on, see if it fits your arm now, trim the excess.  Pin the button-down sleeves to the insides of the t-shirt sleeves and sew, being careful not to sew sleeves shut.
  8. If you’re doing short sleeves, unbutton and roll up the cuff. Pull the sleeve up your arm and mark on the sleeve the place where you want it to overlap the shirt. Take the sleeve off, and leaving about a quarter to a half an inch excess, cut off the unnecessary part of the sleeve. Use this first sleeve as a template for the second one.
  9. Unroll the cuffs. Pin the sleeves of your button-down into the sleeves of the t-shirt, all the way around, gently stretching the t-shirt fabric if necessary. Sew.
  10. Roll cuffs back up, so that they cover the edges of the t-shirt sleeves. Sew into place in a few different spots around the sleeve, so that they won’t come uncuffed at inconvenient moments. 

If you’re doing a long-sleeved shirt, you can ignore this step. You were already done back at step 7. Why are you still reading?

And there you have it! A much dressier t-shirt, and a lot of extra fabric to play with.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about what you can do with the leftovers. Are you excited? I know I am.

Table Cloth(ing)

Please note: Seven Ways to Dissect a Button-Down is suspended for a day or two due to a tragic shortage of button-downs. Please accept, instead, this picture of me in a tablecloth.

Would you guess that this skirt used to be a tablecloth? You would? Because I told you? Well…fine. *Sticks out tongue in a childish manner*

This skirt was a lot of fun to make. You remember that I bought this tablecloth, along with a bunch of other stuff, at a yard sale recently. It was a big circular cloth, so I figured I could just cut a hole in the middle, add a waistband, and make a circle skirt. And I was right! Although it did take me a few tries to 1) get the pleats right and 2) figure out how to sew a buttonhole. But the final result was definitely better than I expected when I bought the cloth. The pleating even strategically hides a paint stain. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to twirl away like one of those skydancer toys from the mid-90s.

(Only, you know. They flew instead of just standing there.)

Seven Ways to Dissect a Button-down, Day 1: The little white tunic shirt (plus ideas for the leftovers)

Ever wanted to sew but didn’t know where to start? Ever been to a fabric store and noticed that fabric costs a ridiculous amount? A first sewing project should be easy and self-explanatory, and this one is. Furthermore, the materials may be as cheap as zero dollars, depending on whether you have a boyfriend/father/butch girlfriend/pal from whom you can steal an oversized button-down shirt. If you can’t find any of these people, or get them to part with their shirts, try a thrift store. They cost as little as $1 there.


  • 1 oversized button-down shirt
  • Sewing machine (or needle and thread, if you’re incredibly patient)
  • Pins
  • Matching thread (or close-enough, really)
  • Scissors

Step Zero, for any project: Figure out what project best suits the amount of material you’ve got. For this project, try the shirt on. It’ll just give you a better sense of what you’re working with.

  1. Lay shirt flat.
  2. Cut arms off of shirt, and cut off collar (neatly!) Set aside.
  3. Draw a line across the front of the shirt as high up as you can. This is the top of your shirt. Cut along this line on both sides.
  4. Using a seam ripper, remove the pocket. Set aside for later.
  5. Your shirt should look like nothing at this stage. Like a sad shell of its former self. That’s normal.
  6. At the top of the shirt, pin the raw edges where the sleeves used to be together. Now, trace a line down the shirt. This line should curve to follow your natural curves. If you don’t know what those are exactly, start big and tailor down to fit. This might take a few try-ons, but once it’s right, you’ll be happy. Sew along this line.
  7. Roll that top raw edge of your garment down, the way you would for a hem (fold it over, and then fold it over again.) Pin and sew.
  8. Button your shirt up and lay flat.
  9. Find some remainder fabric–I took mine from the sides of the garment, but if you don’t have enough you can take it from the sleeves–and cut two strips that measure about 5″ by 16″. These are going to be your shoulder straps. You can make them narrower or wider to your taste. Pin the two sides of the fabric together and sew, then turn inside out. Sew along this tube a few times with your sewing machine so it’s not a tube but a flat strap.
  10. Pin your straps to your tunic.  Go put it on and look in the mirror. Adjust straps to own preference. Then sew into place.
  11. Pin pocket on where you want it–either up at the bust, adjusted for the new garment, or down near the hem.

And you’re done!

Ifyou want to make this top into a dress, follow the instructions but get a longer shirt–tall men’s shirts are ideal for dress-making. Remember when sewing the skirt of your dress that you’ll need it to fit over your widest point of your hips. If the buttons are still pulling after that, sew the bottom part of the button band shut (but not the top–you need the buttons to be able to get into the dress.)


After this project, you should have an intact shirt collar and one or more sleeves. The shirt collar makes an excellent accessory, with or without ties. The sleeves will be covered in tomorrow’s tutorial, the sleeve scarf, so if you have both remaining, don’t throw ’em out. If you’ve only got one, consider this lovely project found on Adventures in Dressmaking.

Upcoming Tutorial: Seven days, Seven ways

So, you probably don’t know this yet, but I used to have a sewing machine. And it was a fine sewing machine, for what I used it for, which was as a desk decoration. Unfortunately, I tried to use it to sew, and apparently it didn’t like that because now it’s broken. So while I wait for it, I’ll be posting things like this, warning you of the awesomeness to come. It’s going to be a veritable tutorial maelstrom once I get my new machine.

And to start off, I’m going to do seven days of ways to deconstruct an oversized men’s button-down.

I’ve seen about a million tutorials for this kind of thing on the Internet, neat lil’ ways of using…parts of a button-down. That don’t fly with me. In a back-to-nature gesture, like those romantic hunters who use every part of the deer, I will show you how to make the best use of this shirt you’ve slain–er, found. While some of the pieces may get repeat uses (there’s only so much you can do with a cut-off shirt collar) each day will feature at least one new item, with a total of 12 distinct items. Some will even be things you could make with hand-sewing, if you’re a more patient person than I.

Until then, I’ll be posting a few knitting tutorials, as well as a guide to thrift store shopping. I may also link shamelessly to other blogs that are already chockablock with neat projects. Stay tuned.

EDIT: My sewing machine is coming tomorrow! Unfortunately, I don’t have oversized button-downs yet. We’ll see how this plays out.

And for practically zero dollars…

About a month ago, I made an apron out of some leftover fabric from a sheet I’d bought at the thrift store. (The dress I made with that sheet is too hideous to speak of, or post, and it was expensive, so I won’t mention it. Except for right now.) My friend saw the apron and went “Oh, how cute! I should learn to make an apron of this kind.” So she and I went out to the same thrift store (the lovely Fan Tastic Thrift in Richmond, VA) and bought a bedsheet for about $3. She made her apron, which she has dubbed FrankenApron due to its lopsided nature and lack of ties in the back (she got bored) and I sat around trying to think of what I could make out of the leftover material. It was a queen sized sheet, after all. So I went online to see if I could find a pattern that required absolutely no hardware–no zippers, no buttons, no hooks and eyes, nothing that would stand between me and a fast and easy project.

And I found THIS.

Now, this was an apron with a super-long tie meant to wrap and tie in the front. Class, right? But some people on the site, Burdastyle.com, had been talking about turning it into a skirt. They said, “Just add some extra fabric to the skirt part and an extra panel of waistband in the back! And then sew it up the back so your butt doesn’t show!” And it turns out that they were right. The pattern on Burdastyle shows how to make the front of the waistband, so I just made an identical piece as the back, cut it in two in the middle, and set the waist ties into that part.

And when it was done, it looked a little something like this:

(This is my model-face, by the way. I look ill.)

It was a little sad and lonely, a little lacking in visual interest. So I made myself a stencil, bought some fabric paint (about $3) and added this little fellow here:

Later this week, I’ll do a tutorial of how to make your own stencils for clothing using computer images and some sturdy (or not-so-sturdy) paper. If you’ve had a kid in your house in the last couple of years, you probably have almost all the supplies you need to stencil up some of your clothes or household objects.

For this project, the costs were as follows:

Fabric-$3 (but there’s enough fabric there to make two of these skirts, with leftovers)

Fabric paint-$3


Total spent: $10.

Cost of comparable item on the Internet: $74.99. Although you could probably go as low as $16.99 if you just wanted a fluffy little high-waisted skirt.

If you find a sheet in a print you already like, maybe some nice stripes or a floral, you could do this project for as little as $3. But I think the octopus is a nice touch, don’t you agree?