Inspired by a Violette Room design, I refashioned this green & blue thrift-store medium size plaid shirt. I was reading through the Japanese sewing book Stylish Remakes and fell in love with their idea of upcycling old plaid shirts into fitted jacket blouses. I followed their instructions detailing sleeve and cuff adjustments, however the rest I had to improvise given that I no longer have a waistline for this jacket to accentuate.
Stylish Remakes by Violette Room
Jacket with Gathered Waist by Violette Room
I cut my design a good 4-5 inches shorter than the book’s instructions in order for the jacket to fall at the top of my uterus, the smallest point of my body these days. I threaded a half inch elastic through the bottom hem and inserted a metal snap to the bottom hem, both of which provides a nicely cinched bottom. This also allows me to wear the jacket open or closed over long tank tops & dresses and voilà, my version of a maternity plaid shirt!
Two months ago, I attended my first clothing-swap party hosted by the lovely & talented Montréal-based designer Heather Lou. I was so touched to be included and I still can’t believe, at 32, this was my first clothing-swap party. Me? A lover of clothes and upcycling aficionado? What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than meeting new ladies and getting to exchange treasured-but-destined-for-goodwill pieces of clothing. It was honestly as though we invited the best part of the fripperie into her living room, along with fun anecdotes about the pieces and a spread of tasty treats!
I picked up half a dozen great pieces that day. One of which was this cute Nancy Bracoloni for Shangri La scarf dress. Karen said she never wore it and I couldn’t understand why not but when I got home later that afternoon, I realized I would never either. How could something look so cute on a hanger but look so wrong on a body. It was a pretty yet very unflattering floral sailor dress. This number was difficult to upcycle as there was too little fabric to work with. I removed the bottom scarf portion from the skirt, double folded the raw edge and inserted an elastic string. And voilà, a pretty simple scarf blouse! I’ll use the remaining black chiffon as lining for some upcoming sheer projects.
This morning, I upcycled a large Whirlaway Frocks’ purple paisley stretch polyester dress into a pair of leggings and a strapless top! I picked this number up last week at Montréal thrift-store Eva B for 10$. All I needed was a little imagination, the new Van Morrison album & a cup of coffee and voilà, I have sweet top to wear today! Perhaps not to be worn together- maybe Amsterdam in the 90s…? I’m wearing the top today tucked into some high waisted jeans!
Last weekend, I managed to squeeze in just enough sewing time to upcycle a second-hand sheer pleated skirt into a flowy bell sleeved top. This project wasn’t terribly difficult but it required quite a few steps. I detached the fabric from the skirt waistband and then proceeded to iron out all the pleats. As I had predicted, the amount of fabric nearly doubled once I smoothed out all the folds. I cut the fabric using a Burda blouse pattern but I went rogue with alterations. I shortened the length, adjusted the bust, tightened the collar and closed the bell sleeves and voilà, ma belle blouse!
This week I transformed this thrift-store Burgundy velour set into a Nettie top and a self-drafted high-waisted pencil skirt. Was this set originally a track suit or some regal hunting gear? Your guess is as good as mine!
I picked up this Balaban (made in Canada) two piece sweatsuit, 100% polyester stretch velour- size 26, at the Salvation army a few weeks back. The cashier had given me an odd look when I placed the set on the counter. Really? This outfit? I explained that I was going to refashion it into something (hopefully) wearable. She gave me the Good-Luck-With-That discount and marked it down from 7$ to 4$. Woohoo!
I used the top part of the suit to make a Closet CaseNettie. Since I was working around the original seams and had a limited amount of fabric I opted out of creating a bodysuit (what the pattern is originally designed for) and made a top version instead. I took apart the pants and made myself a self-drafted high-waisted stretch pencil skirt. I deconstructed an old Pink Floyd tshirt into a tank thinking that it would pair well with the skirt. And voilà, I’m feeling pretty regal in my new clothes.
This week’s Sewing-It-Forward project was transforming a violet chiffon D’Allaird’s dress into updated and fashionable pieces. I used the bottom portion of the dress to create an elastic waist pencil skirt and a cardigan blouse from the top portion.
D’Allaird’s Boutique- Vancouver, Canada
D’Allaird’s was a Canadian clothing store, a subsidiary of Marks and Spencer, founded in the mid-70s and closed in 1996. I have to admit the original number wasn’t terrible. I know Vie Domestique would second that notion and even went as far and said she liked it. And I quote, “J’aime un peu ça. Shame on me”, she wrote after I had I texted her the before photo. Haha- busted! The truth is, the dress was beautifully constructed- it accentuated the waistline properly and draped nicely, but it was dated and had been sitting in the donation boutique at the women’s shelter for too long.
I stitched ripped the bottom skirt from the top blouse. I measured my hip circumference and added a couple of inches. I cut the bottom fabric into a large square using the measurements. I sewed the two pieces of chiffon in place. Chiffon moves and shifts too easily and I can honestly say I don’t enjoy sewing it. I managed to sew the side seams of the skirt while keeping the original back bottom hem slit in it’s proper place- the middle. I created an elastic casing with the top hem and slipped in an inch wide elastic.
Refashioning the top portion into a cardigan style blouse was far more simple to create however it did require a lot of carefully executed stitch ripping. I separated the blouse portion from both the skirt and from what I’ve been calling the waistline-skirt, that extra bit of flowy gathered fabric (see before photo). I stitch ripped the blouse open, separating the left and right fronts and then double hemmed the bottom so it wouldn’t fray. The double hemming also provided more weight for nice draping. And voilà, two lovely wearable pieces for some new owners!
As soon as Lady E handed me this size 18, 100% acrylic St Michael’s dress, I knew it had a potential of becoming something wearable and dare I say- stylish. I love paisley print so immediately knew I could create something cool. Unfortunately, my sweater dress idea was quickly squashed when I found a palm-sized shredding moth hole mid-thigh. I felt that patching would look odd on top of the print so I opted to create a sweater tunic instead. I am 5’8″ so this number could probably easily work as a mini dress for a smaller woman.
The dress had a loose elastic sewn into the waist line which I tightened giving a nice shape to the bodice. I dropped this outfit to the shelter’s boutique yesterday along with the Grazia pieces. I’m excited to see who picks this one out.
Now what to do with the remaining 6-ish inches of paisley fabric…
Sewing-It-Forward project #2- my 4th and 5th outfits.
In case you’re just tuning in, Sewing-It-Forward is a term I’m using for the refashion sewing I am doing- rescuing outdated and unattractive items donated to a local women’s shelter where I volunteer. Every Wednesday, I will be receiving new items to deconstruct and redesign. You can see my first project here.
My second Sewing-It-Forward project was a size 16 Grazia two-piece outfit. Lady E from the “boutique” at the shelter actually laughed as she placed this 50% merino wool and 50% acrylic challenge in my bag. I would say it was ugly per say however quite overwhelming when worn together as a two-piece as it was made and sold as (see photo). The lovely VieDomestique did a little recon work for me on the Grazia label- very little is known but she did tell me the outfit all together ran about 50$.
Before (skirt less pinned)
Before- the whole outfit (skirt pinned to stay on)
I had drafted out many ideas for the top, all trying to keep the buttons but it continued to look drab. I considered a deep v-neck to compensate for the softness of the pink wool but thought a boat-neck would be more versatile and appeal to more women. I used some interfacing for the collar for added structure.
Before and After
Reattaching the sleeves.
My original idea for the bottom portion was to cut it shorter, something a couple inches above the knee. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to show the outfits to my girlfriends and Mandy & Veronika both voted for a just-below-the-knee look. Even pairing them with booties were their idea- i love it! Nicely chosen, ladies!
I kept the skirt’s lining and made the skirt suitable for a medium-large fit.
Before and After (after image is gently pinned in the back 1.5-2 inches)
Deconstructing the skirt. Left the lining in.
After, paired with a blouse. (Skirt is gently pinned in the back 1.5-2 inches)
Kofta is sweater in Russian. This week, I turned large sweaters into smaller ones. I call these Koftochkas!
Every Wednesday, I host an art session at a local women’s shelter. It’s a two-hour period for the women to pause in the middle of their afternoon and participated in mindful artist activity. I believe that creating something, be it painting or needlework or any other sort of creation, allows for the expression of our emotions and is filled with therapeutic and self-healing rewards. The workshops are run rather informally and are open to whomever is interested, no sign up. Just come & sit, either to paint, draw, collage or needlepoint and engage in good conversation. Good music always helps set the tone; a mix of Bob Marley and Ella Fitzgerald have become our weekly soundtrack. I started this program last winter with the hopes of eventually turning it into a sewing workshop; build self-esteem by fashioning a dress strategy. More sewing machines are needed for this phase of the program.
Last week, Lady E who runs the “boutique”, a large display closet for all the donations received, complimented me on my refashion leopard sweater. Lady E challenged me to turn three large sweaters that she hadn’t been able to find homes for into beautiful and fashionable ones for deserving new owners.
Cut, redesigned & pinned- ready to be sewn!
I dissembled the sweaters like I had with my leopard sweater project. I removed the sleeves and separated the front from the back by cutting the shoulder and side seams. I used a Burda knit top pattern as a guide for size and shape, but adjusted the pattern for each sweater in order to keep the original collars, cuffs and bottom hems.
I’m happy with how they turned out and excited to see who picks them up next week! #SewingItForward