Yesterday, I upcycled a homemade Muumuuu-style dress I found at Village des Valeurs a few months back. The fabric looks more African wax in flavour, similar to many prints I admired throughout my travels in West Africa. The design however appears to be a more modern day take on the m’boubou or kaftan, a traditional West African ceremonial dress, as the sleeves are short. I was lucky with this piece as it’s extra large size allowed me enough fabric to create something completely new and to cut it on the bias. There is no zipper in this dress, only the magic of angling the fabric on the bias for more stretch and ease. I used my Tashenka pattern for the design and some strategic angling to accommodate the print- voilà, my African Wax Print Dress!
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!
I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog front these days but have been very busy in the studio. I love sewing and have been having a blast designing my own pieces but can’t possibly wear them all. Sewing clothes can be a rather expensive pass time as well. So I thought, since graduate school has been delayed at least a year or two, why not open up shop? Etsy makes it so easy to connect makers to buyers so I signed up. My shop will open its (virtual) doors July 2015!
I’ll begin by offering my Tashenka dresses- lace top, cinched waist and print bottom as well as some upcyled tank tops and possibly some baby/kid leggings. I’m taking a chance and testing out the waters- we’ll see where this all takes me. And voilà, just like that Tashenka Designs is born!
I found this crazy JR Continental dress in the nightgown section of my local Salvation army. I immediately knew that I was going to upcycle this bright and bizarre castle print dress using a self-drafted pattern from last summer. I will tweak my Tashenka dress pattern over the next few months and uploaded it for download eventually. The dress was a size 10, made in Romania of 50% polyester & 50% staple fibres, something I was consistently reminded of as I pressed my seams open. The mix of polyester and staple fibres create quite a distinct odour as they were heated by my iron but luckily the synthetic blend wasn’t terribly apparent to touch.
I removed the sleeves, the collar and the bottom hem frill. I then shaped the front and back to my pattern pieces and inserted a long zipper up the back and voilà, my Castle Dress!
This week I altered a blue Nightingales dress for the boutique at the women’s shelter. Two women commented on the dress as I left that day, with a twenty-something year-old expressing her interest in it if it was “a whole lot shorter”. The other woman, a forty-something year old, was still hesitant but agreed that the dress would be nicer if it was shorter. “I wouldn’t wear a mini-dress but you’d have to take off a good meter”, she finally said. A meter? I thought. ” You ladies are funny and exaggerating a little, no?” I half-heartedly joked. They both exclaimed “No!” in unison.
I brought the dress home and hung it up in my sewing space. How much to cut off? I thought to myself. The adventurous upcycler in me wanted nothing more than to separate the top and bottom, turning the top into a a fun peasant blouse, maybe add buttons or something, and the bottom into a circle or maxi skirt or even a pair of culottes (not quite shorts, not quite pants).
One thing I have learnt since starting to make my own clothes is that a woman’s measurements play a crucial role in where hemlines are the most flattering. I’m speaking from a purely mathematical standpoint as I recently read an article about mathematician Lily Serna‘s take on clothing hemlines. Serna has developed a formula to calculate your perfect hemline length- calculate your golden number here. I tried the dress on and played with the lengths. Everyone has their own style. Many women, regardless of their height, shape and proportions, like what they like. At the end of the day, just go with what you love. Although the dress has a tie to cinch the waist, the dress at full length hid my curves and created the illusion of a long bell shape that fell at an awkward ankle length. I’m 5’8″, this dress would have swallowed a shorter woman.
The most flattering universal length for most women is a hemline at the knee +/- according to their height and style. Since I’m trying to create outfits that would suit most women, I went with the at-the-knee length. It is a flattering cut that is suitable for all occasions from a job interview to a date. I chopped off 10″ and voilà, a really cute & flattering all-occasion summer dress!
Warning- this post has the potential to speed up your baby ticker!
Last Thursday, I tried my hand at making knit baby leggings after I came across GoToSew’s free baby legging pattern. The pattern comes in two pieces with eight simple steps to follow. I made a pair for my little sister Lhasa from an old tunic dress and another pair for my niece Ella with the remnants of adorable elephant knit fabric. The results were nothing short of adorable. This is the perfect project for all the left over ends and small pieces of stretchy knit fabric you have saved but have yet to use. What to do with 15″ x 10″ pieces? Baby leggings! The pattern seems to side on the larger size, which is great as they will grow into them but you may want to tighten your elastic waistband measurements for a slightly snugger fit.
Friday evening, I popped open a delicious bottle of Les Jumelles Sauvignon blanc and caught up on my long list of you-had-a-baby-last-fall-and-I’m-a-shitty-friend gifts! I upcycled this $4 J Crew cotton/spandex anchor skirt into some adorable attire for a small fleet and voilà, leggings for Lhasa, Miles, Kai, Charlie & Rocky- the cutest little sailors!
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!
While Etienne constructed our wedding website last night, I transformed some hand-me-down micro-fleece thermal pants my brother Cassady gifted me last fall into some cool running tights. Cassady is a sommelier at the Norman Hardie winery during the summers and enjoys shopping at their local Giant Tiger. Hence my heinous gift. I refashioned the top to this stunning Ducks Unlimited Canada hunting sweatsuit last December into a tunic/minidress but wasn’t confident in my pants-making abilities at the time to attempt anything with the bottom of the outfit. That all changed when I took a legging sewing class with Heather Lou last month and learned some fun new skills. I up-cycled these large mens camo sweatpants in some pretty (tight) running pants. The fabric allows for just enough stretch for them to work as running pants. Perfect as I prep in this extended winter of ours for the Montréal half-marathon! A little creativity + a little light snow + the espresso leggings pattern by Cake Patterns = And voilà, fantastic cosy running pants!