Upcycling a skirt into a tee


Last year I sewed this tee from this funky printed knit. It’s a fairly snappy matte jersey (poly) knit. I really didn’t like the fabric as a skirt – frankly, it seemed too dowdy! I had sewn the A-line skirt, which looks super cute and modern in a knee-length stretch print (woven or knit) fabric. But this one just didn’t work for me as a skirt. Originally, I had bought it for a tee, and it really was meant to be a tee. So I selected the Christine Jonson Patterns Banded Neck Tee (a very simple tee, with easy to serge banded neckline.)

I was able to use the center front and center back of the Christine Jonson A-Line Skirt panels for the back and one elbow-length sleeve. I will also be able to cut sleeve bands (not shown) out of this skirt as well, out of the two smaller side panels. I grabbed the remnant and cut another sleeve and the front of the tee. It took 12 minutes to do the cutting, and I did it before work!

From the left, back pattern piece (will now have CB seam in it) neck band, sleeve, and sleeve bands out of the other panels left over (hanging off the table edge.)

This tee is so simple!

Flatlock/decorative serger seam maxi dress



So I set out to sew the Flatlock seamed maxi dress from the April May 2014 Sew News issue. And an hour and a half into trying to flatlock with my ancient but sews so awesome “New Home” (Janome) My Lock serger, I gave up. As you can see above, I did test after test and after test. It was so bad, it required a handcrafted stout from the guys at Skywalker Brewing (Lansing, MI.) I decided what I liked most about the dress was the colorblock and the exposed seams. Heck, you can serge seams on the outside and press them flat. Same look. No one in their right mind that I know will know they are not flatlocked.

Maybe flatlocking works on fleece or something kind of puffy (like boucle, sweatshirting or a bouncy ponte). But it sure doesn’t work on this thin, stretchy rayon lycra. Better to cut my losses now before I try to sew into my dress fabric.

Off to the machine (and the stout)!

So, the report from the couch (and with the stout) is not good. Besides not sewing together the panels correctly – you need to sew the top to the angle piece below it, then the two across the bottom next, THEN sew that single piece to the top half single piece – I had forgotten to add seam allowances when I drafted the pattern. Further, I also forgot to add enough to the hem to be maxi length. I’m using a mashup of a Butterick OOP from the 1990s, when Maxi wasn’t quite maxi.

Fortunately I have a lot of fabric, and it’s just the front (unless I also cut the back the wrong length too, *facepalm.) I’ll recut and resew without the ridiculous frustration (hopefully) the second time. My plan is to make this my Mother’s Day sewing morning. Let the fam cook me breakfast and do the dishes, and I’ll sew 😉

The good news is I like the colorway – heathered black and heathered burgundy with black and an asian print for the top. It’s very sophisticated, would look awesome with a white denim jacket (just like the styling in the SewNews issue) and the fabric is super drapey.

This weekend, we try again 😉



New sewing patterns from Hot Patterns! Poncho and twist front top and dress


This week, new sewing patterns arrived in my mailbox from HotPatterns! I got the Fast & Fabulous Jet Setter Poncho and the Metropolitan Verano Dress & Top. I added these to my collection that I got over the winter (back row), the Fast & Fabulous Tailored Trackpants (new rayon/tropical wool blend ones coming this weekend!) Fast & Fabuous Four Seasons Kimono Jacket and the Riviera Cote D’azur Dress, tunic & top.

After our incredibly cold and snowy winter (which we just LOVED over here in SewParadise, what with XC skiing, downhill skiing, ice sailing, snow tubing and snow shoeing) our spring has been equally slow and cold in coming. However, I’m not at all upset it’s only 50 degrees today, as it’s perfect poncho wearing weather.

Read my review at PatternReview.com for the typical sewing pattern review details you’ll want to peruse before selecting this one for your collection. Read on for my take on upcycling former garments.



So I journaled recently that I needed to get rid of a lot of stuff. Some stuff, like my sewing stuff,  or things I have made but no longer wear, I have a hard time getting rid of. I made a simple practically no-sew fleece ruana about a decade ago. I liked it, but oversized Ruanas have fallen from fashion a bit, so I never wore it much in the last four years. Also it collected dog hair like a magnet. We just needed to be in the same house, the dog and I, and this fabric would attract it. In fact, she’s been dead 7 weeks as of this post and the poncho, in the sewing, attracted tons of it. I cherish the wiggly, crinkly white hairs now, as I pluck them off while sewing. Zuzu, I miss you, even your hair!

But the ruana was not large enough for this full poncho. I had also made a gray ruana for my grandmother at least a decade (or more, she died in 2003) ago, and intended to bring it to her long term memory care facility, but she died before I finished it. So I never wore it. It sat in my basement for 10 years. I moved it once. So today, I upcycled both in to this lovely and stylish new garment!  The big win with this is the cowl is giant – in fact, so large, you can wear it as a hood – in my opinion, this is a wonderful feature in a poncho. The only thing missing is handwarmer pockets set in the seams in the front. It’s a perfect spot for them, and I’d top stitch them right to the center front (no flappy pocket bags inside the garment, they’ll be sewn down.) Next version, I’ll add those to this poncho.

Being Earth week and all (Earth Day was Tuesday) I am trying to not purchase anything. We met with our financial advisor for a full portfolio and retirement planning review on Friday so that also has me conserving cash and getting my wealth building in order. Wealth building does NOT involve frivolous shopping, but it sure does include upcycling stuff from your basement!

The upcycling went well. I first had to determine, roughly, if the pieces would fit on the fabric I had, so I cut out my size (a 12, mostly just for the hem opening, so you can experiment with a smaller size if you want a less roomy poncho, just be sure you can fit it over your hips when you sit down.) I placed them in various spots on at least five different fabrics. Fortunately they all ended up on the upcycled ruanas, as it’s a better use of these former garments. I think this poncho could be made from a fleece blanket, and those you can find at secondhand stores, so I may try that. Be wary, linen closet, as I’m coming for YOU too!

I think this is such a cute garment, that I would like to make one for my daughter. She’s 7, and the smallest size is a woman’s 6, so I’m just going to wing it and hand-draw the same shapes in a much smaller size for her. And yes, in the linen closet, we have a blanket-sized embroidered fleece that I think would be perfect for this!




Very stylish children: BurdaStyle for kids

I spent the morning organizing BurdaStyle magazines from 2007 onward. I noted on the cover on a sticky/bookmark which ones had items I liked and would sew. Many of them say “children’s clothes” and the review of them did not disappoint. I really need to sew more for my children. So for every project for myself, per week, a child project. I’m looking at some striped tee shirts for the family – navy blue and white for DD and I and light blue and white for my little son. Then, a corduroy pleated tulip skirt in camel, for my DD, and camel corduory cargo pants for my son (with colorful fabric on the cuffs.

I have enough patterns to last a very, very long time. Eternity, probably! I’ll be sewing for grandchildren at this rate.  I’m attempting to get my son to nap so I can get back to organizing. This week I wrote an article for Christine Jonson Patterns on Facebook about wardrobe planning. The challenge with traditional wardrobe planning is that it doesn’t help you with stash reduction or tackle those onesie-twosie garments that you love but never seem to match anything. So I like to take two garments (maybe even ones I wouldn’t wear together) and walk down to my stash of both pattern and fabric and FIND something that works – that makes these two garments harmonize. I am appreciating the opportunity with this cool and rainy snap to organize my fabric and pattern stash so I can do just that. Then, my plan is to get the too-little-kid stuff off to charity and organize their play area into ‘stations’ for play. Including a crafting station, too.

The stash management is a key thing for me right now. I see and desire so much stuff via Pinterest, catalogs, email, that I tend to want to acquire, and acquire. None of that does me any good and the thought of shopping – although it gives me a bit of a rush to do – always leaves me feeling guilty. Whereas just the thought of sewing leaves me feeling so joyful (and actually sewing even moreso!)  Plus, children’s clothing is so much fun, and the BurdaStyle european styles are so chic – much more than stuff we can buy here.

BurdaStyle was a real treat this morning. I had a stack about a foot and a half high that was in a canvas tote bag on the basement floor. I grabbed it and while the kids played, I sorted them by date, noted on the cover what kids’ (and mom) patterns I liked from them and sorted them on shelves. It’s a harder way to organize patterns, since each issue contains many of the styles (pants, tops, etc.). But at least date order allows me to search burdastyle.de’s magazine index for garment types, then find them in my magazine stash. My son is almost asleep (at least he’s now physically quiet and laying down. It won’t be long before he’s out and I can turn up his comforter and cover him up and head back to my fabric organization project.

Skirt, top, BurdaStyle 8/2013.

Use the good stuff: summer statement necklaces go vintage

I inherited several big ‘statement’ style necklaces from my late grandmother. I have recently finished fixing a few of these after their strands broke after 50+ years in existence. They are perfectly in style now – multiple strands of chunky beads in funky colorways. They probably date from the 1930s, although I am guessing only from knowing a little bit about the fashions during those periods.

These statement necklaces have been loved and worn in my wardrobe even when they were not in ‘fashion’ – but now that they are, they’re even more desirable. I’m styling this one [brown acrylic bead multi strand bib style] with a maxi dress and a blazer for the office on casual Friday. It’s the perfect segue to the weekend, no?

On my last trip up north to the beach house, I spied a young woman in the grocery store who’s outfit I admired from afar. I should have complimented her on it – it was so incongruous for up north. She had on a diagonal striped maxi dress, a faded denim jacket and an iridescent pale dusty pink scarf looped around her neck.  She wore flat silver flip flops and had her hair in a messy bun on her head, big shades propped up as she shopped. This is the kind of thing that I find interesting. Where was she from? This was not an Up North outfit (at least around here – maybe in Traverse City or Charlevoix, yeah, OK, but not here in Oscoda.)

Maybe she was visiting HER grandmother, and in the process picking up a few baubles to wear twenty years hence when they roll back around in style.

In any case, pore through your jewelry stash. Vist rummage and yard sales (particularly church ones; I once scored a bunch of gorgeous vintage beaded necklaces at one near my office.) Find some things that you can mix and match into the perfect multi-strand statement necklace this summer! Beading is one of the easiest crafts – beading wire is less than $6 a spool, and besides your upcycled necklaces, you only need pliers, wire cutters and crimping beads (available from the craft emporium, dollar store crafts section, hobby store or specialty bead store.) You can even find them in tiny up north towns, in your dollar stores (even some of the smallest towns seem to have these), five-and-ten stores (Ben Franklin up here) and craft / hobby  / book stores.

Find inspiration on Pinterest, in your favorite online catalogs (I like Anthropologie and JCrew), and beading web sites (Fire Mountain Gems is a favorite of mine.)

Three ways to wear shorts with a blazer or jacket

Three ways to wear shorts with a blazer

It seems like an awfully long time since women’s shorts were in such fashion – I don’t mean that women weren’t wearing shorts, just that high fashion hadn’t zeroed in on shorts. Or even trickled that down to trendy retailers. But this season – and I saw it two years ago in BurdaStyle and SewStylish – the polished, higher-waist (with a real waistband!) short is definitely on the must-wear list.

Right now the shorts are being paired with jackets, which, just like pairing a jacket with jeans – is a great way to elevate a casual shorts-and-tee outfit. But you really need some casual, lightweight jackets to pull this off. With the exception of a white linen jacket, unlined is your best bet.

Good sewing sources for unlined jackets are Angela Wolf’s Unlined Jacket class on PatternReview, the awesomely comfy knit jackets from Christine Jonson patterns. You can make any jacket unlined with good seam finishes, so also check out jackets from HotPatternsBurdaStyle and Kwik-Sew for good fit and fashion-forward designs. Shorter, tighter fitting jackets are back in style and these look great with shorts. The only real rule here is that the shorts hem MUST be below the jacket, and by a few inches, too. You shouldn’t look like you are going around pantsless!

The shorts-and-jacket trend is accessorized with layered necklaces and flat strappy sandals, or wedge espadrille sandals.

I have a lot of shorts, and several of that true-waistband look. Right now, check out Simplicity, BurdaStyle for shorts patterns with front pleats, pockets, waistbands that are popular. Tuck in your tops, so be sure that your fit is excellent, and that your top has enough volume that if you have a bit of a muffin, a tighter tee doesn’t accentuate the muffin when it’s tucked in.

In ready-to-wear, try JCrew for excellent shorts that will wear forever (still have a pair in my drawer from 20 years ago), or locally, Jeanologie Boutique in East Lansing has high-waisted dark denim shorts in stock now (they may have other styles, too.) You can also go thrift and take a pair of trousers from a thrift store and shorten them to your perfect length. Secondhand boutiques like K2 and Kellie’s Consignments in Okemos also have a good selection of shorts right now.

For moms, I recommend if you can’t or don’t want to tuck in the top, belt the jacket over it. A woven leather belt is casual, a skinny patent belt is more dressy.

Are your legs not in shape for shorts? I recommend riding your bike. Yeah, that one. In the corner of the garage. Get out some chain lube to quell the squeakies, put helmets on you and your kids and make all of the small errands (returning books to the library, going to the park, riding your older kids to and from school, going to church, running smaller errands (quart of milk) or transporting to playdates by bicycle. Lansing, where I live, is flat, flat, flat for bike riding, we have a good network of trail systems, bike lanes and quieter neighborhood streets to do some riding, including Michigan State’s beautiful campus. You might have to be creative, and if you’re with your kids, jump up on the sidewalk. Bike trailers are essential for your not-yet-riding kids and while harder to find used, are well worth the investment – you’ll sell them for almost what you paid for if it’s in good shape at the end.

Biking works the gluteal muscles, the hamstrings and the quads. It also works your calves too. It’s an awesome exercise for great legs up and down!

I guarantee if you ride several days a week (just try it, you’ll see how much more fun errands become!), you’ll have great short-worthy legs starting to emerge in two weeks or less.

Three ways to wear shorts with a blazer by asiegle featuring topshop

Use the good stuff day 18: mohair wrap with satin lining


Vintage 6 x 2 rib mohair wrap, hand-lined in satin is today’s post. Last wearing? 2003, black tie event) This was hand made, and I got it from my mother (not sure if she hand-made it or someone else did.)  I styled it with a cream turtleneck, and dark rinse jeans. Previously, I had really only worn this on ‘fancy’ occasions – you know, the half dozen or so black tie events that I went to in the last 15 years. A friend borrowed it for her winter wedding in 2003 (and looked stunning in it!) But it didn’t get much use.

I saw Blonde Bedhead style her vintage fur stole (gotta make me a fake one of THOSE – I don’t do real fur) with a cream sweater and dressy trousers with red heels. That was pretty divine, so I thought, well, let’s do a casual version of that look. I have a cream ribbed sweater that would have been a better fit than the turtleneck; next time I wear it.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve drawn the 30-days-posts waaaaaay out. Mainly because I realized I have a lot of great summer things to pull out and I want them to have their time in the sun, pun intended.

But at the rate spring is arriving (this post is from the first day of spring!) it may well be June before I finish this series, a full six-months after I started it! That’s OK, as long as it gets used, it can stay in the closet. This year, we begin implementing change in our household, running it more like we run our companies – and that includes organization, accountability, strategic planning and execution. So I expect that some of my “I’ve saved this forever, why?” items will see the gift / giveaway pile, and so if I want to keep them, I have to say, honestly, I wore that X times this winter!

I’ll style this for work with dressy trousers and a cream sweater a la Blonde Bedhead in the next week. Mother nature is making some signs that she may grace us with 50 degrees by week’s end!


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