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!
My mother made this mother-hen maternity dress 35 years ago. She wore it towards the end of two of her four pregnancies. Cassady and I were born two years apart in the summers of 1980 and 1982. This dress suited the season and the time well. Many of my mother’s friends are quite taken with how pregnant women show their bellies nowadays. The weekly bump photos I share with my mother, in which I sport snug knit dresses and fitted tunics, have been shared among some of her friends. She has only received lovely responses with the other common replies being “we certainly never dressed like that in our day.”
I had seen this dress over the years at the bottom of her storage bins, the print always made me smile. A mother hen with her eggs 🙂 My mother has always had a good eye for unique prints and a fantastic sense of humour. I was so touched when the dress was finally given to me to wear during my pregnancy. I had worn it a few times around the house but felt this dress deserved more, as I tend to feel with most great but outdated pieces. With my mom’s permission, I upcycled this dress to suit the season and the time.
I was inspired by the shape of a pinafore yet I couldn’t bring myself to deconstruct her beautiful collar, with its carefully crafted facing and button neck closure. I shorted it by 9″ and sewed a 1/2″ elastic into where my new waistline falls, creating a gathered waistline at the top of my current pregnant belly (approximately 4.5″ from my armpits). Paired with a turtle neck, cardigan or a long-sleeve and add a pair of tights and voilà, my mother’s mére poule maternity dresses another pregnant body!
What to do with the remaining 9″ of fabric?
My mother had made me a beautiful quilt with the remnant fabric of baby clothes and maternity dresses she had made. She used these precious squares to create a beautiful quilt which I have cherished and continue to use. I’ll be making something similar for our baby boy.
This week, I upcyled an old thrift store sweater into a cardigan. I bought this striped 100% acrylic crewneck years ago and have worn it a million times around the house. It’s boxy shape and stretched-out bottom hem were among the reasons it remained just an around-the-house-sweater. As I enter my 3rd trimester (now 29 weeks pregnant), cardigans paired with long tanks/minidresses and leggiings have become wardrobe staples so I decided to refashion my old sweater into a cardigan.
After discovering and falling in love with The Renegade Seamstress Beth Huntington’s website last month, filled with her fantastic sewing tutorials, I immediately went out and picked up her book, The Refashion Handbook. For this upcycle project, I followed Beth’s Merino Wool Cardigan tutorial. Since this project is found on page 60 of her book, I will not be sharing the details with you here, however, Beth has a similar tutorial on her website. After I cut, pinned, sewed, pinned again, sewed some more and then hand stitched the button in place, I pressed the seams and voilà, my old favourite sweater is now my new cardigan!
I highly recommend Huntington’s book to everyone who enjoys upcycling clothes and working with fabric they probably already own. Some of these projects I have thought of myself and done already and others, like her Renegade Ikat Bag made using an old pretty tablecloth, a black leather sleeve, a denim pocket and an old belt, I will definitely be trying out very soon. Beth Huntington, the MacGyver Sewist!
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!
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.
My belly is growing by the day as baby boy continues to fatten up. My clothes are fitting differently, some impossible to slip on and others taking on a new shape- quite literally! I’ve been relying on leggings & tunics/minidresses these days but outerwear has been slightly more tricky. Another week and I’ll be busting out of my winter coat which I’m hoping to rectify with a Kokoala coat insert. In the mean time, I had created this lovely blanket coat for October in Montréal. I was looking for a fun, inexpensive & simple sewing solution for the in-between October weather. I came across the website of the Renegade Seamstress, a like-minded upcycler, and found her fantastic DIY Wool Blanket Coat tutorial. I used a pretty couch throw, an old leather belt and less than an hour later, voilà– my cozy & comfy blanket coat!
We’re going to be parents! And we got married! And we moved into a new home!
My apologies for the four month hiatus, but I return to you all with nothing but great stories and happy news. Etienne and I are going to be parents come the end of January 2016! Our summer began with the news that we will be parents and the season ended with a beautiful wedding. We marked the arrival of fall, our favourite season, with a big move into our new home!
As wonderful and thrilling as this whole journey has been so far, the first trimester of my pregnancy was a little uncomfortable. I took comfort in knowing that the discomfort of nausea and fatigue, as my friend Andrea had pointed out, was a sign that everything was working as it probably should be. Sadly, it all left such little energy and time for sewing. Aside from my nursing work, June and July were pretty low key, mainly consisting of lots of naps, carb heavy snacks and a generous amount of a new TV guilty pleasure: Nashville! This saw me through until the very end of July, when Etienne and I entered full time wedding prep mode. Etienne pretty much single handedly organized our entire wedding reception. I am incredibly grateful to my husband for his excellent attention to detail and organizational skills. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a more diligent partner. He stepped up to the plate and took on more than his fair share. I already knew he was going to make an amazing husband and soon an extraordinary father but he certainly earned some extra stripes here. Thank you, Etienne, je t’aime très fort!
For the wedding, I was put in charge of decorations and table arrangement/seating. The flowers were simple, one large white hydrangea was placed in a vase in the centre of each of the ten tables. With the help of my dear friend Nathalie, we cut and sewed 200 white lace triangles and created some beautiful pennant strings which were strung across the ceiling of our reception hall. The lace was upcycled from old white lace curtains I had purchased at Village des Valeurs for 3$ each. I sewed them individually on 1/4″ gift wrapping string from the dollar store. It worked out perfectly, providing that festive wedding feel without that enormous wedding price tag.
Our wedding reception . Note the lace decorations. (Photography by Matthew Perrin)
Decorative lace pennant strings!
Weanie taking shelter from all the lace.
Nathalie dedicated two of her Saturday nights to our flags 🙂
Now on to the dress. Since our engagement, I had been dreaming of making my own wedding dress. I had purchased beautiful off white lace from FabricDotCom at the very beginning of the summer yet only started working on the dress the first week of August. I was having difficulty deciding on a pattern yet found myself favouring plunging lace neckline and midi length skirts. I began piecing it together on my dress-form. I created a beautiful plunging neckline with a deep V-back, both meeting at an elastic waistband attached to a gathered double lace layer skirt hitting me mid-calf. It was exactly what I thought I wanted. On the dress-form, it was my perfect wedding dress, however on my 18 week pregnant frame it was not a flattering design nor a comfortable dress. With only two weeks to the big day, I began to panic.
Wedding Dress #1 (first version)
Sewing with the beautiful lace.
Wedding dress #1 (second version)
My lovely friend & fellow sewist Andrée-Anne met me on St. Hubert that Sunday to go fabric hunting for dress #2. Armed with a few ideas I pulled from Google Images, Andrée-Anne’s know-how, and my unshakeable determination for creating my own dress, we succeeded in our mission. We found some beautiful stretch fabric at Regent Tissu. I chose a dusty pink lycra stretch blend for the bust portion and an off-white stretch satin for the skirt. I also picked up some white slinky stretch lining and some dusty rose lace to create a belt.
I still couldn’t decide on a full dress pattern so I chose to build it in pieces, selecting styles that I liked and believed would fit my growing & changing body. I opted for the Burda Bodice Top (04/2013, #115) which I altered by removing the pattern straps and opting out of the front opening. I chose simple 4mm wide elastic straps from Ultratext. The design shape of the bodice constructed with the strong and tight stretch of the fabric I chose, lent it self perfectly to my growing bust. I had grown from a 34B to a 34D in what felt like just a few weeks!
The bottom portion of the dress was self-drafted following Elena’s maxi skirt instructions off her site Randomly Happy. I attached the bodice to the bottom lined portion and the results wielded were fantastic! It fit my waist, hips and baby bump beautifully. The only hiccup was the bodice which I didn’t adjust correctly. Andrée-Anne has become a true and treasured friend who saved the day- and my dress! As I stood in front of the mirror wearing my unfinished wedding dress 10 days before the big day, she patiently stitch ripped sections of the facing of the bodice open and pinned the bust and back darting adjustments. She taught me how to pin, mark and sew the darts properly while keeping her hands off my sewing machine. “I can’t do it for you, you’ll want to claim full credit for this dress later”, she kept repeating as she encouraged me to dive in and fix my dress myself. And I did. And it turned out to exceed all of my expectations. Merci, Andrée-Anne!! Je te dois bien ça, tu m’as sauvé la vie.
Pinning the bodice!
Working away on Wedding dress #2 (photo courtesy of Andrée-Anne)
Making dress #2
Working on dress #2
Praying dress #2 works!
Working on dress #2
Dress #2- bodice
I attached the elastic straps and made a simple lace belt using two button closures in the back and voilà, dress number two became the dress I loved the most and the one I wore to marry my love.
My wedding dress! (Photography by Matthew Perrin)
My wedding dress! (Photography by Matthew Perrin)
My husband & I. (Photography by Matthew Perrin)
My husband & I. (Photography by Matthew Perrin)
My Wedding Dress! (The standard selfie photo was a must, no?)
Our talented photographer, and I’m proud to call our new friend, Matthew Perrin took some incredible shots of not only our special weekend but he also documented an afternoon as I worked on my wedding dress. He photographed our unconventional rehearsal dinner, a Baseball game BBQ at Parc Vinet, and our wedding ceremony & reception on the following day. We can’t say enough wonderful things about Matt’s work and I feel like the photographs speak for themselves. Here are a couple dozen to share!
Before I sign off, some special fashion nods must be given to the lovely Andrée-Anne and actress & model Nastassia Markiewicz. These two beauties made their own dresses for our wedding as well. Andrée-Anne’s two-piece dress details can be found on her blog post. Nastassia’s dress was also a sexy two-piece number which can you believe she self-drafted and created from some remnant that she had in her fabric stash. I’m honestly blown away by these two!
Andrée-Anne from VieDomestique.com modelling her Burda two-piece scuba dress.
Nastassia showing off her stellar self-made dress, with her boyfriend Sam.
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!