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.

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.

MATERIALS:

  • 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)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  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.

Le Cheap-ass Sash

Like most people, I have a few deep, abiding loves for things that I’m a little embarrassed to admit in public. One of them is American Apparel. Now, we can either get into a long conversation about their ads demean women by sexualizing them, or we can remember that being sexual isn’t a bad thing and that women have agency and we can move on. Good? Good. Anyway, they make products in the USA and pay their factory workers a living wage of $12 an hour, so if you feel like running out and buying some of their merchandise, I’m all in favor of it.

Anyway, back to my point. They have this neat thing in their online store called The Sash:

I looked at it and I was like “Well, that’s exactly what I need for (insert list of clothing items here.)” And then I looked at the price tag, and thought “Well, maybe I DON’T want to spend $16 plus shipping and handling for a long piece of cloth.”

So here’s my tutorial for making your own sash. It’s superbly easy.

MATERIALS:

  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine or needle and thread
  • Pins
  • Pair of kinda-shiny, kinda-stretchy dress pants you don’t want anymore. You could use any material for this, mind you. I just went with pants because I had a pair of tiny-ass ones from when I was 12.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Lay pants out flat. Cut up through the crotch to divide the pants into two pieces.
  2. Lay your pieces of fabric out in front of you. Now, figure out how wide you want your belt to be. On the American Apparel website, they say that The Sash is 5″ wide. It’s doubled over, so that would be a little over 10″ of fabric, plus seam allowance. You might not be able to get that out of this pair of pants.
  3. Separate the front of one of the pant legs from the back. Now, you can do this quick and dirty with a pair of scissors, or be really fancy and use a seam ripper. It takes forever with the seam ripper but it saves you some fabric.
  4. Lay your two long, narrow pieces of fabric out side by side. These are going to be the back ties for your sash. Even them up so that they are uniformly wide.
  5. Cut a piece from the other pant leg that is either as wide as, or wider than, your sash ties. If you go wider you’ll have a wide band at the front and some little ties that loop around–like a Japanese obi, almost. Like this one: If you go wider, fold the fabric over and cut it so that it’s wide in the middle but only as wide as your ties are at the ends.
  6. Lay pieces end to end, with the new piece in the middle. Pin edges and sew.
  7. With the wrong side outside (i.e. the ugly side, with the visible stitching), pin up your tube and sew it. Then turn it right side out.
  8. Turn under the edges of your sash and pin them. Then sew up. You should probably use matching thread; I didn’t because I’m too cheap to buy new thread.

Voila! Your sash is done!

I used mine to fix a problem I’d been having with a dress that I won on the Internet. The dress showed up and it was too big through the waist but fit fine elsewhere. Solution? Le Cheap-ass Sash.

You can make versions of this out of all kinds of different stuff. I have one that I made out of red and gold brocade, as you saw–although in retrospect I can’t remember why I thought that wasn’t tacky. This project is just about free, and best of all, it’s guaranteed to have no sweatshop labor. Unless you’re a really harsh boss of yourself or something? Anyway, go easy on yourself.

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.

MATERIALS:

  • 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

INSTRUCTIONS:

  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.

Seven Ways to Dissect a Button-Down, Day 2: Sleeve Scarf

So remember those sleeves you have left over from Day 1? Today you’re going to put them to good use. The sleeve scarf is exactly what it sounds like, and it’s an incredibly simple project–so simple it should only take you about ten minutes. Here’s me modeling the finished product, using my new digital camera and tripod courtesy of an uncle who upgraded.

(again with the ailing model-face…I’ll learn.)

MATERIALS:

  • Discarded sleeves in need of a home
  • Sewing machine (or needle and thread–this is a project that could probably be done with hand-sewing)
  • Scissors
  • Pins

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Take sleeves and place next to one another. Notice how they’re both cut at diagonals? Put the long part of one diagonal against the short part of the other diagonal, and vice versa, like so:This will help you maximize scarf length.
  2. Unbutton the cuff on one of the sleeves. Now, turn that sleeve inside out over the other sleeve.
  3. You now have a sleeve-within-a-sleeve. Pin the raw edges at the tops of the sleeves together, all the way around. This is going to be your one line of sewing for the day. You ready?
  4. Now, sew the raw edges of the sleeves together! If you’re feeling really fancy, you can go back over your stitches with a zigzag stitch to prevent fraying.
  5. Take the sleeve that was inside out, and turn it right side out. And there you go.

See, wasn’t that easy and painless? And now you have a distinctive–dare I say it–classy summer accessory. This lightweight scarf is downright breezy.

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.

Materials:

  • 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.)

THE LEFTOVERS:

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.

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