Frumpy to flirty

For those who don’t follow my sewing blog (apologies to those who do) here is my latest project…

1-before and after1

I adore charity shops there seems no end of inspiration. It might just be my own obstacle, but am fearless to alter items bought secondhand that I would hesitate to alter new!  Thrift store or charity shop seem to bring out my adventurous  side- especially if there are only a few pounds at stake!

Sundress before frontThis dress caught my eye – I knew the style was not right for my body shape but the fabric thrilled me so much I bought it anyway. It is your standard maxi sundress – with a shirred top, you can find lots of dresses like these at the moment, even in charity shops.

Summer sundress fabric

As you can see this fabric is wild! Lots of different colours going on – including different coloured backgrounds. the great thing is that there is no directional design, it all seems to flow freely, which makes pattern cutting easy.

Sundress before

You can see from this picture why this dress style doesn’t work for me – the uni-boob is not a flattering look! My waist has completely disappeared and as this dress falls from my boobs, it has added excess inches around my whole body! As if I need any more inches adding! lol.

Sundress skirt length

Look what happens when I lower the gathering down to the waistline, it already looks a lot more flattering. It is a very generous skirt, there is lots of fabric to play with – and definitely enough to make a top half! While the shirring is a great scale for bodice, it is a little too wide for my waistline- so I shall shorten it and remove the top edge.

Vintage 1950's pattern

My inspiration for this re-fashioning came from a vintage 1950’s pattern –   the gypsy top element to this dress pattern is a delight! When I was growing up in the 1970’s gypsy skirts and tops were everywhere I loved swirling around in my circular skirt – an enduring link with hot summers and gypsy style remains with me today. I love the way the puffy sleeves give a bit of balance to the full skirt in this pattern it emphasises the hourglass shape. It is unashamedly girlie!

New Look top 6277

Given my love of gypsy tops, it won’t surprise you that I had this pattern in my stash! I wanted the bottom left style – intending just the top section to be used for this re-cycling dress. Somewhat less of a square neckline than the 1905’s pattern- but the sleeves would more likely cover dreaded bra straps! (Monster bra straps are a necessity for the larger bust!)

New Look no longer sell this pattern, but there are a couple of similar ones that would work just as well. New look 6892, or New Look 6891.

Take largest pattern piece and measure the overall length  this will determine how much fabric you need to cut off the bottom of the skirt. As mine is a maxi skirt I had plenty of fabric to play with so I ended up with a circle of fabric that was just a little bit longer than my top pattern piece.

The key here, is not to un-pick any seams: as it will reduce your overall available material. I folded the fabric over with a seam running straight at a fold and then cut the bodice piece with  the centre front at the ‘fold’.

My fabric was so wild that the original seams disappeared, even though one old seam ran across one of my sleeves at a corner edge, the material still remained intact. The pattern matching was easy, but I did make sure the pattern pieces went in the direction of the dress, e.g. the top of the pattern piece was at the top edge of the fabric.

Upcycled dress neckline with decorative elastic edge

The main feature of a gypsy top is the gathered edge that is either elasticated or gathered by using a cord. I had this delightful heart shaped lingerie elastic, so gently zig-zagged it on to bring the neckline in.

If you are using any of the patterns listed above, shorten the bodice and back to just below the waistline, then add the dress to the lower bodice edge. The shirred section is now the waistline.

It is just a case of then finishing your hem edge, we are so used to seeing overlocked edges I decided to finish mine in black.

1-DSC03781

I don’t think this dress is far from the original 1950’s pattern inspiration – more importantly it makes the most of my waist which is more flattering.

As an re-vamping overall I am very pleased with the results – so much so that I am going to scour the local shops for more!

 

Overlooking the overlocker

A few years ago I was offered an overlocker with a horn cabinet but it took a great deal of courage to plug it in and use it.

An overlocker looks completely different to a sewing machine, all those knobs, dials, spools and strange names like upper looper and lower looper – it was quite an intimidating machine.  When I did venture enough courage to give it a go, the sound was tremendous and it went at such a pace – I found it ran away with me.

No wonder it was cheap, as soon as I began to rely on the nicely finished edge, the overlocker would break requiring patient re-threading – only to have it break again. In sheer frustration I decided to buy a second hand baby lock evolve which had ‘blown air’ threading and have never looked back since. Threading requires no more than putting it down a little hole and watching it whizz out the right side when the button is pressed. It is the threading that makes the cost of an overlocker more expensive, but it depends on how often you change the spools.

An overlocking machine gives such a professional finish to all home sewn projects, the beautifully neat edges make the home made outfit difficult to distinguish from shop bought – except of course beautifully fitted!

I had not really got much more beyond that with my overlocker until I saw this manual from Julia Hincks. It shows just how versatile these machines are, you can make tee shirts using the overlocker alone, as it handles stretch fabrics with ease.

This book opens up all the possibilities of the overlocker, making it more than just a companion to the sewing machine. The book explains how to make the most of the machine not just techniques but also additional feet and other tools. I did not realise that you can get beading feet for overlockers as well as bias binding feet. It also explains how to get the lettuce edge finish that looks fabulous on sheers and lightweight fabrics. 
Another useful section in this book is the fault finding and adjustment section – she highlights some of the common problems with thread tension and more importantly how to correct it, to create a balanced stitch. 
This is definitely one for the sewing room bookshelf, an excellent guide book and one that unlocks the many potential uses of these wonderful machines. 

Cushy number

We are having family to stay over Christmas and bought a lovely white sofa bed. The great thing about the colour is that is possible to update or change the look simply by sewing different cushions. I had some of this clarke and clarke fabric left over from a few projects so I thought I would make some new cushions. I simply love this design the birds and roses are lovely. There are so many colours and the duck egg blue is one of my favourites. Once I had made the cushions I thought it needed a nice fringing  to give them a finishing touch, which was all the excuse I needed to go to the Eternal Maker
After walking round Chichester in the pouring rain purchasing the final gifts for Christmas I decided I would treat myself to a visit to the store which is simply delightful. Not five minutes through the door I was offered a lovely cup of tea and decided to participate in their make and take. It was a little button tree, which was delightful to make as there were huge pots of buttons to pick from. Daisy talked me through the project and it was like sitting with a good friend. Living in West Sussex is wonderful there are so many fantastic fabric shops, clothkits is in Chichester too, one of the many reasons I am so happy to be here. 
Little button tree made at the Eternal Maker.