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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Whirlaway Dress Upcycles

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!

Before & After
Before & After
What I'm wearing today ;)
What I’m wearing today 😉

Floral Bell Blouse

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!

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Before & After

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My Bowie Pants

My Bowie Pants! This past month, I had the opportunity to learn how to make made-to-measure leggings from the lovely & talented Montreal based designer, blogger & sewist, Heather Lou. Heather hosted a two weekend- Sunday afternoons for 3 hours each- DIY legging workshop at Fripe Fabrique, a boutique and do it yourself atelier. (Psst, they also sell online). Michelle, FF’s owner, has a beautiful set of Singer sewing machines for her sewing DIY workshops. After the shop had closed, Michelle transformed her adorable boutique into the perfect studio space for us to learn about knits, measuring ourselves to create our own pattern and make made-to-measure leggings.

Heather began by taking us through the basics. This was especially fun for me as I have never taken a proper sewing class. I had the opportunity to ask all sorts of questions. I discovered a slew of things I’ve been doing incorrectly when it comes to working with knits and stretchy fabrics. I have been using the wrong needle (ballpoint or stretch needles only), that I must invest a couple of my pennies into a walking foot, how to properly gauge the stretch content a given fabric and what is a “grain-line”- just to name a few.  Heather also shared a video with us on how sewing machines work- mind-blown!

We measured ourselves and plotted our measurements on the pattern. We used Cake Patterns Espresso leggings N5555 – a genius design as it really takes into account how we are of all different shapes and sizes. Aside from the usual measurements of waist, thigh circumference and leg length, we measured our front and back rises-these are key measurements to creating the perfect fitted legging. I made mine using a 4-way stretch gold polyester with 5% lycra. And voilà, I call them my Bowie Pants!

Tashenka’s Salme Kimono Dress

This is my second Salme pattern make. Their patterns have become some of my absolute favourites. Elisa and her team certainly know how to design beautiful patterns for women. I recently purchased two to use in the teaching sessions with the women at the shelter. I think they’re great teaching tools as the designs are fashionable yet also uncomplicated. I prefer designs that are simple, my musts are clean lines, few pieces and straightforward instructions. The Salme website also has fantastic and clear sewing tutorials with step by step instructions. For the top of this dress, I used their understitiching tutorial, as well as Tilly and The Buttons’ tutorial on collar facing. I was so pleased with how this collar turned out. I will never make another collar without a facing ever again. Well, maybe not never, but almost never.

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I used two pieces of fabric to make this dress, both of which were rescue-upcycle garments. The top was created from a Léo -Danal by Normie Hum Ltd dress, a now-defunct Montréal clothing line. I found this floral XL dress at Village des Valeurs for $5, a real steal as once I ironed out the pleats I was left with a substantial amount of fabric. The skirt portion of my dress was made from a beautiful large vintage scarf which I got for a whopping 50 cents as it had a couple burn holes, lucky for me they were near the edges. I used the Salme Kimono Sleeve dress pattern, only tweaking the measurements slightly. I also inserted a 1.5″ elastic casing to the inside waistline which I inserted a 1″ elastic through, providing a more snug cinched waist. And voilà, the Tashenka’s take on the Salme Kimono Sleeve dress!

Burda’s Member Model Challenge Dress

I’m certainly no model but I always appreciate a good challenge. Burdastyle.com was hosting another one of their member model challenge projects and I decided why not? (Spoiler: I didn’t win) The featured dress for this month’s challenge was their Gathered Tube Designer dress 04/2010 #165, a simple and flattering strapless number that can be sewn in a variety of fabrics for a mix of different looks. The sewist can create an elegant evening dress or a casual day dress or even a beach number. The pattern is extremely versatile and you can certainly notice this when browsing through the contest entries.

I decided to make mine using this beautiful soft turquoise paisley-esque cotton I picked up in the Đồng Xuân Market in Hanoi last summer. The dress is very comfortable, highlighting my true waist line and falling at a nice length above the knee. I double hemmed mine as the fabric will fray with washing so my next one- yes, I’ve already planned for a second in black- will be 1.5″ longer. A perfect addition to the summer wardrobe, dressed up or down.

The pattern comes in two pieces with instructions to cut out a third thin strip for the inside elastic waist casing. The instructions are straightforward and to the point, perhaps a little too straightforward for this novice sewist. I was a little confused with how the top of the dress was folded and sewn to accommodate for the elastic in upper dress edge. I folded the top of the dress inside 1 inch, pressed, then folded her again 1 inch and pressed. I sewed nearly all around, following the marking to not sew the space in the middle front. You then slip the elastic through, pinning the ends of the elastic on either ends. Sew in place and sew the vertical lines at these edges to hold the elastic in place. This method allows for subtle contrast in gather for the upper edge of the dress. I really enjoyed creating the elastic waistline as it called for an inner casing. A 1.5″ wide strip that is sewn to the inside, all around to the dress waistline, which your waist elastic is pulled through and then sewn in place. The casing makes the inside looks clean, laundry safe and allows for access to elastic for any future adjustments.

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Four finalists were chosen this morning by the Burda staff, opening the voting session which will run until March 16th, 2015. The chosen four made lovely dresses which they modelled beautifully in their photographs. These women know how to represent themselves and their work in front of the lens.

Even though I didn’t make the cut, It was a lot of fun to participate and see how we all created a unique looking dress from the exact same pattern. They all look so different. This truly highlights how a vision and personal style can truly influence our interpretation of a pattern so differently.

The Veronika Vest.

My sewing projects have been few and far between these past months. The holidays were filled with family and the post-New Year period filled with catching up with friends. Throw in some full time work and I’m left with very little sewing time. However, this sewing machine withdrawal period has allowed for some reflective moments- sketching some design ideas and muse on my muses. Where does inspiration come from? Everywhere. Most often, I find my inspirations when I’m amongst my friends, and this has always been evident with the company I keep. My girlfriends in particular, beginning with my own mother, have had a great influence on my past creations. This week’s vest creation is a nod to one of my nearest & dearest, Lady Veronika– a love-story of sorts.

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Veronika & I, winter 2007-08

Veronika and I have been friends for nearly ten years now. I still remember the first time I saw her- she caught my eye with her stunning smile, killer dance moves as she sported this awesome retro vest. She embodied cool. My brother introduced us (at my request) to which Veronika smiled and grabbed my hand leading me on to the dance floor. I quickly began to understand that that gesture, confident, chic and cordial, was classic Veronika. All of which is reflected in her style. Her style has evolved over the years, as have her beautiful paintings,  however her innate ability to always look elegant and classic yet utterly unique has never ceased. Maybe think Annie Hall mixed with John Lennon mixed with feminine eastern European style. That night Veronika had paired her oversized sheep skin/wool vest (her mother Danuta‘s I later learned) with a off-white lace trimmed blouse, paint stained blue jeans (she was in art-school at the time) and an eclectic mix of bracelets and rings. Make no mistake about it, this was love at first sight.

This image of my friend inspired my latest upcycle project, making my own vest using faux fur. One of my recently found pleasures has been rescuing faux fur coats from the thrift stores, All under 15$, I have been salvaging and recycling the fantastic fabric of some great faux furs coats that I don’t believe will ever find homes again (apologies to those who would wear them as is).  I drafted a pattern using an old nylon/down vest as a gauge and incorporated the original collar of the coat into my design. I removed the lining from a light gold Donnybrook faux fur coat, cut off the sleeves and separated front from back.  I cut the fur and assembled it together. I sewed the bottom and arm hole hems. I’ll admit they look a little rough but I’m pretty pleased considering the improvised nature of this initial iteration. I also repositioned the hook and eye closures. I pair her with my plaid flannel or my floral polyester shirt, jeans and some Dior lipstick and voilà, my own version of the Veronika Vest!

DIY Faux Fur Scarf (Tutorial)

Last summer, my mother, Vie Domestique & I scored some beautiful fabrics at Norwegian Wood‘s Montréal studio liquidation sale. I picked up some very unique pieces of fabric, most of which I have yet to use. This 70″ X 20″ piece of beautiful light brown faux fur has been tempting me ever since the weather dropped below -30C.

I had no pattern or plan but I had seen some cute & simple DIYs working with faux fur. Anna from PlanB‘s idea of making a tube-like scarf caught my eye but I didn’t think it suited my personal style. I also thought Create-Enjoy‘s version of the infinity scarf was nice but I didn’t think it would work with the weight of my faux fur. I felt like a classic wrap collar scarf would be something I’d wear and love, so I decided to seize the little sewing time I’ve had these days and make something elegant & cozy inspired by some beautiful Russian sable fur scarves I’ve come to admire.

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Supplies:

  • 30″ X 20″ (approx.) of soft faux fur (if your faux fur doesn’t pass the shedding on black fabric test, I recommend to pre-wash it in cold water and hang to dry- they can shed)
  • A button- I chose a 2″ faux gold. My faux fur deserved some faux gold!
  • Regular sewing supplies (needle, thread & scissors) * This project can be done by hand but I used a sewing machine*

Supplies

I apologize in advance for the lack of photos- photographing the fur was difficult, few details were visible so I’ve drawn some simple step by step diagrams to go with the written instructions.

Tashenka's instructions for DIY faux fur scarf
Tashenka’s instructions for DIY faux fur scarf

Step one: Cut your fabric into a 30″ x 20″ rectangle.

Step two: Fold rectangle along the long fold giving you a 30″ x 10″ folded piece, with right sides facing (the two fur sides facing each other, *you’re looking at the wrong sides).

Step three: Pin the long side together, keeping both short edges open.

Step four: Now sew along the long side you’ve just pinned. You’ll have a tube at the end of this step.

Step five: Turn the fabric right sides out (you’ll be flipping the tube inside out, fur now on the outside, hiding your just sewn seam).

Step six: Flip the edges of one of the short sides inwards approx. 1″. Basically, you’re tucking the raw edge inside the tube. Now with the edge tucked in, pin & then sew the opening closed. This gives the end a nice finished look. Repeat this step on the other side.

Step seven: You’re nearly done! Now try on your almost finished scarf to decide on button placement. I designed mine to have the hidden long inseam resting on my shoulders and the folded edge along my neck. I wanted mine to be a little snug, wrapping up and around my neck nicely- elegant but also practical for this Montréal winter. Mark where you want the button hole to be placed, which will be on the top flap (the flap that goes on top of the bottom flap) and the actual button will be sewn to the bottom flap, mark this spot with pins.

Step eight: Depending on the size of the button you’ve chosen, you now need to make a slit measuring the length of your button (mine was 2″). Cut a slit into both layers of the top flap. You can either stitch the edges of the button hole by hand or machine. I’ll admit, machine is always faster but by hand might be easier as the fur makes seeing the slit very difficult. (for more details on how to sew a buttonhole, please see: sewing a button hole by machine or by hand)

Step nine: Sew your button onto the bottom flap.

Step ten: Voilà! Put her on and button her up, your scarf is finished!

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Sweater for the Shop (S-I-F)

Happy New Year!!

I hope your holiday break was as lovely and restful as mine. I had intended on doing a lot of sewing once exams were done and the clinic closed for the break but then my niece Ella came to town. All projects were put on the back-burner so I could spend time with the adorable silly bean. Santa was particularly kind to me this year, among my fantastic gifts was a slew of carefully selected thrift store rescues from my mother. Among these relics was an ’80s (I’m guessing) Italian (again, guessing) satin wedding dress.  It’s going to be a fun year!

Before & After
Before & After

Lady E handed me a bunch of soft and comfortable sweaters at the beginning of December. She asked that I refashion them like the previous set because no one was interested in these outdated and oversized knits. This white with red flowers Sentiments sweater is the first of many to come. Voiià, my first Sewing-It-Forward project of 2015, another little sweater ’cause baby, it’s cold outside!

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Tutorial to come as promised with the next sweater refashioning.