The Declutter Dress

Etienne and I moved into our new home last month. The week preceding our move, my husband had me doing some serious decluttering. Etienne helpfully highlighted my closet as top priority and I didn’t fight it. I participated and I think I did a pretty damn good job. I donated nearly half of our (re: my) things to shelters and the Renaissance donation center. There were a dozen pieces of clothing that I felt the need to save. Some that I had either not worn in a while (re: years) and others that I had but perhaps shouldn’t have (re: dire need of an upcycle!).

Yes, that’s right folks, the upcycler cleverly upcycled her own clothes in order to keep them! Here I combined two doomed pieces of clothing into one that I would wear. The black long sleeve crop top and this old daisy knit pencil skirt were both snug and given that I was 25 weeks pregnant at the time, I didn’t need to attach an elastic to the waistline. This simplified an already straight forward process even more. I gently pinned the two pieces together and tried it on to measure the desire dress length. I chose something shorter as I’m pairing most of my clothing with leggings these days. I cut the skirt at the waist band and not at the bottom hem, allowing me to keep the original hem. I told you this was an easy project! I pinned and sewed the top and skirt waist seams together and voilà, my declutter dress!

My new dress!
My new dress!

I think if you’re items are made of stretch fabric and snug enough, even non-pregnant women can opt out of installing an elastic to the waistline. It can also be something you sew in later if need be.

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African Wax Print Dress

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!

The Castle Dress

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!

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Regal in Red

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!

Before & After
Before & After

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 Case Nettie.  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.

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Gold Button Down Indigo Sweaterdress

I found this rich indigo size 14 sweater dress at Renaissance a month ago. It had no label, only a small tag saying Made in Canada, 100% acrylic. There was a slight tear in the bottom which reduced the already low price tag to 3$! A steal for an up-cycling sewist!

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I dismantled her like the other sweaters (plus interfacing to the bottom hem), only here I had to be extra careful as the front pieces had to line up perfectly to facilitate button placement and the side pockets, which I had to cut in half, had to be symmetrical. I can wear this dress with nylons, leggings and even jeans. I wore her last Thursday to work and then dinner. She’s super comfortable, flattering and soft, my only comment is that she gapes a little when I sit. To rectify this issue, I will pick up some more matching thread, remove the buttons and sew her up the front.

My question for you all, shall I keep these gold buttons or do I opt for something a little less flashy? My mom had suggested a matching indigo satin button? I like the idea of a understated button. Your thoughts?

Sweater Dress

I’m beginning to feel like the poster child for Burda’s Knit Dress Sloper pattern. I just can’t stop making this design!

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I made this number with the fabric pieces I bought from Norwegian Wood designer Angie Johnson‘s studio sale. Johnson has recently relocated from Montréal to California and sold some beautiful fabrics at extremely generous prices. Thank you, Angie!! (below pic, @VieDomestique & I)

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I had purchased 4 pieces of 35″ x 28″ and used 3 to make this dress. I had to be smart in strategically planning out the print layout. Johnson said the fabric was made in Montréal by Tricots Capraro knitting. We believe the pieces are a cotton blend with acrylic and spandex. My mom touched the dress and said, “Ooh,  feels like terry cloth!” I think that’s means she loves it & agrees it’ll keep me warm this winter 🙂

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Cozy Cottage Dress

I was cruising the Burdastyle website last weekend and I came across this comfortable looking pattern, the Knit Dress Sloper. I was not disappointed! Paired with a soft & warm blue/black knit from Fabricville, this dress will be the perfect outfit for this Sunday’s Thanksgiving feast up at my mom’s cottage.

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I followed the directions to a T this time, much to the surprise of my boyfriend. He’s always complaining that I tend to make recipes my own when, in his opinion, one should always follow the recipe the first time and then bring their own modifications to the table. In his defence, I do have limited skills in the kitchen and there was that one time with the “breaded fish”…

IMG_4612  Paired with black tights & black booties.

As I was saying, I followed the directions, only adding a little interfacing to the front & back collar for structure. The pattern comes in three pieces and the directions are clear and simple. A great project for a novice sewist!

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!! Enjoy your long weekend!

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The Nettie Bodysuit

Yesterday was the first day of fall. In honour of this cooler and colourful season, I made my first Nettie bodysuit (size 6). I purchased the pattern from Montréal designer Heather Lou‘s Closet Case Patterns. I certainly got my 12$ worth, the pattern set is brilliantly versatile. There are multiple neckline and sleeve variations as well as the option to turn the bodice into a dress (there’s even the option to insert a shelf bra into the bodice!)

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The pattern recommends using a 4-way stretch fabric however for my test run with this new pattern I opted for a  2-way stretch deep green/black checked polyester I found for $4 in the linen section at Village de Valeurs. I had just enough to put this number together so I opted out of the neck and leg bindings. I decided to use interfacing to create structure for the necklines. Four-way stretch fabric is recommended as there needs to be enough vertical stretch to be a comfortable bodysuit. I solved this little issue by inserting a few inches of stretchy black lace to the crotch. I did not insert snaps but I believe I will for convenience.

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Bodysuit paired with a skirt.

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My Shibori print Ibiza minidress

My second dress from the shibori fabric we dyed a few weekends ago– I call her the Ibiza dress as she’s shorter than I had anticipated & perfect for the beaches on the island of Ibiza! Etienne and I are heading there next summer.

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Here I used the ribbed knit stretch fabric for the skirt portion of the dress. We had dyed this fabric a few weekends ago in a shibori style. I felt the subtle lines of the ribbing complemented the length of the body nicely also allowing for the greatest stretch to fall across the body.

Ah-ha moments!

I learned two important lessons while making this dress.The reason the dress came out a little more mini than I had initially designed her to be was due to three rounds of (frustrating) stitch-ripping. For those of you who know me, you know that I don’t usually wear anything this short and barelegged (aside from a floral Betsey Johnson dress I adore & my high-waisted jean shorts, of course!)

For those of you interested in the details on what went wrong and some recommendations to remedy these problems see below after the images.

As fall approaches and these sunny September days become increasingly & deceivingly cooler, I’ve begun the process of drafting sleeves to my Tashenka dress. Also, my République du Chiffon Bernadette pattern arrived this morning from Paris!! And last night I cut the fabric for my Nettie bodysuit. This fantastic and versatile pattern is the beautiful design work of Heather Lou, the Montréal designer behind Case Closet…many many fall outfits to come!

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The bottom hem kept puckering. I folded and pressed them repeatedly however this was not enough to avoid the puckering of the hem that occurred. I ended up opting out of the hem (because seriously, how much shorter could this dress get?!). I cut the fabric evenly with the beautiful Singer shears gifted by Etienne’s mom. 

After a little research, here are some great tips I came across:

  1. Always press your hem lines (Did that!)
  2. Use a double needle when sewing knits (Will get that!) * other suggestions have been changing needle position, increasing stitch length or needle size*
  3. Play around on some test fabric pieces to find the perfect tension to stitch length ratio.
  4. Stay tape- similar to interfacing, it has a little stretch to it and provides structure for fabrics with more stretch.
  5. Attach a walking foot as it doesn’t add pressure or stretch the fabric as you sew.

Another issue I had was the fabric kept getting sucked into the bobbin case, creating this great big mess. It looked like a mangled bird’s nest and the fabric was stuck in the plate (hence my shortening of the dress due to cutting the sucked & ripped fabric) Some suggestions I found:

  • A (cheap) trick that apparently works well for this type of problem is to place some thick paper between the fabric and the presser foot.
  • Another recommendation I found was in regards to the pressure footer. On my Singer 247 this wheel is found on the top left. For heavier fabric, less tension is suggested so that that fabric slides easily between the presser and the feed dogs. For lighter fabrics, you will want more tension/pressure, so that the presser foot holds the fabric to the feed dogs, avoiding any sliding away. In my case it’s recommended to increase the pressure.
  • The presser foot was in the “down” position when I threaded the needle. This means the tension discs were closed and so the thread did not get in the discs.
  • Use a smaller needle size.

Another thing to note about ribbed knit is that it’s a little more tricky to line up equally with other fabrics that have less stretch. Note the small amount of bunching at waist line. It was measured to the bottom hem of the bodice as I always do but stretched in the sewing process creating a looser waist line, hence the little bunching. Bah! Ribbed knit, never again!!