Adventures, home sewing, revamp., sewing

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.


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!


gypsy top, how to repair a smocked edge, how to sew, remodel, repair, revamp., sewing technique, shirring, shirring on a sewing machine, summer top

Gypsy Top Revamp

I love gypsy tops, especially during the summer, they are so pretty.  I found this one in need of some attention in a charity shop; it has lovely embroidery and rouleau loops around pretty pearlised white buttons at the front. However the elastic smocking had gone at the top and round the bottom, but with a little work the pretty top could be re-vamped. 
For some reason the tops this year have been rather unflattering and it sometimes makes me wonder, firstly why all tops have to be a particular design and why they make clothing that distorts the figure adding pounds. The industry knows that we are four basic shapes and this particular style only suits apples. 
As you can see from my sketch, the top is gathered around the hips, the widest part of the body – because it is loose around the waistline and goes in at the hips – it would swamp nearly everyone, dropping right down from the bust at the front. This style would only suit those who have a bit of a tummy to hide under all that gathered hipline, the rest of us would look overweight. 
The plan is to cut off the gathered edge at the bottom and create a gathered waistband, this brings the top back in to accentuate the smallest part of a woman. By drawing attention to the waist, you can look slimmer instantly! 
I cut off the bottom band of gathering and used the overlocker’s rolled hem to create a pretty finish. The bottom button should be removed as it cannot go under the overlocker foot. 
Not only does an overlocker give a more professional finish to a garment, but the pretty rolled seam would lighten the edge of this top allowing it to ripple gently down from the waist. 
If you don’t have an overlocker, you can use the scallop edge stitch in most machines (see * below)- it looks like a zig zag stitch that has been flattened off at the peaks. 
Elasticated smocking is very easy to do on a sewing machine, you simply wind the bobbin with elastic rather than thread. Take care that you slightly stretch the elastic when you wind the bobbin and when you put it in the case. 
It comes out from the bottom of the stitch plate and is slightly thicker than thread so you might have to adjust your lower tension. 
As you can see from my sewing machine’s display, choose an ordinary straight stitch, set to the longest length. (*You can see the scallop stitch displayed as no 9)
The key with any smocking is to space the rows of stitching evenly. 
I use the foot as a guide: you can see that my fabric is lined up with the inside edge of my foot. 
Slowly stitch round the top; gently stretching it as you go, so that it will gather. 
You will notice the fabric behind the foot will be gathered, keep working round the edge until you reach the other end. 
Use the stitch plate guides to continue working rows of stitching until you have your desired depth of smocking. 
I have roughly calculated that my waistline needs to be about 10cm from my bottom edge.
You can either measure up and mark all round the waistline with air drying pen, but I am fortunate to have an additional guide that slots into the foot. 
Stitch around the top slowly working the fabric through until you have reached the beginning. 
The second row of gathering has been done using the edge of the foot as a guide to keep the stitching lines parallel. Pull the fabric this time so that it is not gathered when it reaches the footplate, otherwise your gathering will double up, ending up with a very small waist! 
You can stitch as many gathered rows as you like to create a broader waistband. 
As you can see from the picture, the top edge has returned to its nicely stretched edge but I also have a gathered waistline that shows off my curves! 

cashmere, cushion, hand made, knitted, recycling, revamp., smocking, wool

Re-invention of wooly wonder

This cushion started out as a jumper from a charity shop, it is a gorgeous cashmere wool jumper in a lovely delicate shade of pink, although the computer does strange things with colour! It is also square, but the angle of the camera gives it a slight wedge shape! 
Before the transformation, I love the scarf too, but give me time and it will magically transform to something else. 

Here is the detail of the middle panel which I have smocked, I love the depth of the smocking it really gives the cushion some lovely structure. 
Will post a tutorial on how to make your own but could not wait to share, as you can see it still has my chalk markings on it! 

chalk board, glitter, kitchen, Notice board, pin board, recycling, revamp., Tilda

Focus of attention

I really enjoy going to the dump, you never know what you might find and this little wooden noticeboard was rather lonely and a bargain for £2.00. As you can see a lick of paint can make all the difference. 
It is a great shopping list reminder, but the picture is a bit fuzzy unfortunately due to my lack of height to get a really good shot! 

This photo shows the lovely Tilda characters and all the glittery effect around the frame. It was such fun to do. That is what I love about my home, all these little things around that I love not just because they are pretty, but because I created them. 

basket, recycling, revamp., sewing, strawberries, vintage, wicker

Vintage Basket Revamp

I adore charity shops, not only do they suit my budget, but I find they are teeming with things that inspire me.

Take this little lovely basket, I admit now that I have a wicker fetish I simply love them and have many baskets in all shapes and forms. I think it is the tactile nature of them, similar to wood it has a living appeal.

I think this basket harps back to either fifties or forties, the colours seem to be right and someone has taken good care of it so I wanted to re-vamp it in tune with its nature.

I made an inner bag using vintage style Kath Kidstonesque fabric from Fabricland. I love the combination of reds and greens, who says they should never be seen eh?

It makes the basket a little more useful as I can keep my purse in it and not have it on show while I am shopping.

I made the little bow on the side to match my stripy fifties dress I was wearing to Goodwood revival.

I could not resist adding the bobble ribbon round the rim, and the strawberries were fun to do which was a good job because the day I finished it someone’s dog chewed one off! They are hand stitched and it always surprises me how relaxing hand sewing can be. I used some red suiting I had left over and some green felt that I had made from an old blanket. I also filled the strawberries with some rice to give them a little weight. The buttons are from a new range Tilda has brought out they are designed for scrapbooking, but they were perfect for this because they are so tiny!

As with all things the project grew a little, I glue gunned the edge of the liner to the basket to fix it in place otherwise it would constantly sag. I also added lovely velvet ribbon round the handles as I found the handles cut in when the basket was full.

I love it, especially shopping with it it is so pretty.

If you would like to make some strawberries of your own, leave your email address in the comments box and I will send it to you.

cord, designs, magazine, projects, recycling, redesign, revamp., sewing, skirt

Skirting around the issue

 I love the feel of cord, it is such a lovely soft fabric and it feels better as it ages. It is one of those comforting fabrics that you put on during the first chills of Autumn.

I discovered this little skirt in one of my regular haunts; I often look at the shape of something rather than the colour, I simply have never been a beige kind of person, but it was a very lovely skirt and it called to be given a new identity.

A line is such a flattering shape so I decided that I would change the colour and see what happened. The problem is that there are so few dye colours about, I had the choice of purple or fushia pink, (among others but not half as exciting!).

Since cord is mostly cotton it took well but the ribbon had changed colour and was rather insipid. Just when I was trying to think about what to do next I spotted a flower design on someone’s skirt. It gave me an idea.

I never tire of looking at other people’s clothes and have been known to admire the pleats in someone’s skirt or the detail on the sleeve. Most people find it odd when I complement them in that detail as most people simply say I like your skirt but then I have never been ordinary.

Sometimes that is how a project goes, I get so far and then I am not sure what to do next, but by sheer chance I had been invited to meet the editor of Sewing world. I had to come up with a number of ideas, and I had taken the skirt along together with an idea of my version of the flower. It was my first commissioned article and it did prove to be quite a challenge, my advice is to stick with your first idea!  Some would say, it is more my colour, some would say they could never wear something that bright, but I love it. More importantly, it is unique, recycled and feels so lovely and warm.

clarke and clarke, cushion, doily, heart and home, project, projects, recycling, revamp., rocking chair, vintage

Cosy corner

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin!

This is a lovely corner of my little home. The rocking chair has been with me through many houses, when it was purchased it was a lovely light beech colour but my beloved at the time decided to use a dark stain on it. (you can scroll down to see it before it was revamped) It looked terrible and remained unloved until last year. I was moving into my own little home and deciding what needed to go or stay. I painted it pure white, and the thing I love about doing that is that the form of the piece is revealed. However, I just could not resist adding the blue polka dots to the paintwork, so easy to do! The cushions are made from gorgeous Clarke and Clarke and I love the fabric so much I bought quite a bit of it in its various guises.

If you want a co-ordinated look but not too co-ordinated, it is a good idea to buy the various different patterns of a make, not only with the tones and hues work, but they will go together well, after all that is what designers are paid for, their eye for colour and knowing instinctively what goes together.

The round cushion is one of my favourite creations manly because I love all the pretty doilies that you see in charity shops and car boot sales. Little pieces of art work, lovingly created for the bargain price of 50p.
This one is particularly lovely, it is blue, which makes it unusual, but it is also so perfectly formed with perfect tension. As a hooker myself, (the term I like to use for crocheters!) I can appreciate the sheer skill it has taken to make this delightful thing.

The difficulty is that we no longer use them in the same way, so while I could not pass up the chance to purchase these delights, I found they were stacking up in my studio with no real purpose. The rose material was a remnant, no bigger than a 1/4 metre, but I loved its vintage feel and so the rounded cushion was born. The white background was an old linen napkin. Another beautiful fabric I simply cannot resist, the quality surpasses anything you can buy now, and who uses napkins every day let alone linen ones. So I gathered these beauties together and came up with the cushion. You really don’t see many rounded cushions, so I was rather pleased with the way it came out.

The project itself was published in the May 2012 Edition of sewing world with the rocking chair published a month earlier in April. I think it is such a lovely seat to sit in and I have convinced myself that sitting and rocking while sewing burns enough calories to eat the odd biscuit or two and not feel guilty.

Here is the rocking chair before it was given a new lease of life. 

dressing up, fancy dress, gothic, recycling, revamp., riding outfit, steam punk, victorian, wedding dress

Steam Punk

In case you haven’t read it several times in this blog, one of the things I really enjoy is dressing up.
I was going to a Steam Punk Party, and my dear friend found this wedding dress for me. The bodice was red velvet but the skirt was cream silk.
I managed to dye the silk and it came out a lovely red, but it took quite a few boxes of dye!

I added the lace overskirt, which had a bustle on the back, and the jacket was already mine and has seen a number of different lives!

It was an absolute dream to wear, especially with my red rock boots!

I bought the top hat from a fancy dress shop and it was completely plain. Having researched a little about Steam Punk I was wondering how to create some of the cogs and wheels of the gadetry that goes with the Victoriana, then I happened across an old spyrograph box, the wheels were perfect, once I had sprayed them silver.

A good hour or so with my trusty glue gun and a box of metal beads, and I had created a few items for the hat and a brooch. The feathers were a lovely touch and I had some silver ribbon in my stash. (I love it when you find just the right thing in your stash, its like all the hoarding is finally justified!)

I had an old watch that wasn’t working and a broken necklace, it all looked great on the dress and was fantastic fun to make.

My daughter is very into steam punk and since she is getting married next July has decided to have a steam punk wedding!

I will have to think some more about what I am going to wear, dressing up is such fun!