Category Archives: Refashions

The I Love This Fabric Refashion

I don’t do much thrift shopping anymore, but I still have a pile of clothes for refashioning possibilities.

There was less fabric than you might think to work with in this size small rayon dress with a shirred top and high-low hem.  I almost left it behind, but I loved the two tone print.

Because it was truly small, I didn’t cut it apart at the side seams because I was afraid it would become too narrow at the bust and hips when resewn.

As the photo shows, I simply cut off the top, cut a scoop for the neckline, cut down 10 inches for armholes, sewed the shoulders, and cut a new hem.  I finished the neck and armholes with ready made bias binding.  I needed every bit of length for the front, which is a little shorter than I would like.   I didn’t add any dart shaping so it’s free flowing from the bust and hangs away from my body. I like the longer back.

This refashion was completed last year.  Next up, my first project in 2018.  I finished something in January from my make nine list! Can you guess which one?

Button Front Denim Skirt Refashion

I found some great 1970s skirt patterns at my small neighborhood thrift store.

I also bought this long button front denim skirt with pockets there.  I want the basic a-line shape of the first pattern but this time I’m taking a shortcut using this secondhand garment.

Look closer:  I’m not wearing it!  I’m just holding it up to my waist because the skirt waist is itty-bitty tiny and mine no longer is.

So I cut out the pockets and snipped all the way across to get rid of the tiny top which left the skirt with a huge waist.  I unpicked the hem just at the side seams and cut my new a-line shape keeping the width at the bottom and narrowing at the waist to a just right size.

Before sewing, I switched to a denim needle on my machine. I added two darts front and back.  I struggled with reattaching the pockets.  They had a long opening like side seam pockets but they were inset pockets folded over.

Sometimes it can be easier sewing from scratch than trying to figure out how to rework something.

On to the waistband, which I cut, interfaced, folded over, and sewed on.  I attached bias binding to the raw edge.

The last step: making a new buttonhole on the waistband.  The top buttonhole is horizontal, and the rest are vertical.  A horizontal button is more secure, and can take more stress.

I finished by top stitching the top and bottom of the waistband.

And there you have it : a basic casual classic  to wear about town.  Like this:

I feel like an editor for a fashion magazine setting up an outfit shot.  The little patchwork denim purse is also thrifted.

How I wore it:

Or as worn with another of the kimono sleeve tees I made from a big thrifted tee shirt.  The tee is actually a pretty aqua shade but the sun is bleaching the color out in the photo.


A Simple Dress Refashion

I bought a long dress from the thrift store even though I knew it was too tight for me in the bodice.  The waist and hips were plenty roomy.  The dress is rayon with a small rose print on a black background.

The style featured ties emerging from the side seams below the bust further emphasizing the too tight fit in that area.

I was being a little dramatic making it look like I popped the button in the photo!

Rose Print Dress Before

When I bought the dress I thought I would make it into a skirt, but I really preferred to have a dress.  I don’t have enough dresses, and need more for the ease of wearing – no matching of a top and bottom needed – and hopefully figure lengthening properties.

What to do?

I made three little changes that made a big difference!

I hemmed the dress at knee length.

I removed the side ties, sewed them together, and made a belt to be worn at the natural waist.

Bodice Close-up

I cut the neckline lower into a v-shape removing the top button.  That gave me more “give” across the bust, and suddenly the bodice fit.  I also wore a different bra that helped the fit, and I might have lost a few pounds, but not many as both before and after photos were taken in the same month.

I was going to make inseam pockets with the leftover fabric,  but was having a really hard time unpicking the seam, so I ended up scrapping that idea.

Rose Shirtdress After

Rose Shirtdress Back

Just a few little changes, and my figure looks much more balanced.  Wouldn’t you agree?







Refashion with McCalls 7131

It’s hot and I need fashion relief.

I bought this long rayon skirt at the thrift store.  I love the print, and it was even pretty worn as is (or as was).

Long Skirt Before Pic

The skirt had 3 panels on each side, and a wide, shirred elastic waist.

Long Skirt showing seaming

inside out with seams showing

I wanted to make a fun, weekend look, but instead of hemming the skirt to knee length I decided to try something different.

Enter McCalls 7131.  Yes, I have finally become a culottes convert.  A cool and loose item of clothing halfway between shorts and a skirt (with pockets) suddenly seemed just what I needed this summer.


By putting the pattern at the bottom of the skirt, and making the short version, I had just enough fabric to cut out my pieces.  I used the top third of the skirt to make the pockets.

Culottes pattern with pleating lines marked

dotted lines showing pleat markings

This pattern isn’t based on a circle skirt like some culottes patterns.  Instead it has box pleats in the front, and an elastic waist only in the back.  The center inverted box pleat is stitched down partway, and forms the “camouflage” pleat hiding the center front seam so that the culottes look more like a skirt.

Center Inverted Pleat I bypassed the waistband instructions as I had unpicked the original elastic waist to sew back onto my culottes.  I wanted the back to look like a skirt, too, so I also added pleats to the back, including the center “camouflage” pleat.  I think it’s odd that the pattern only had that center box pleat in the front.  I didn’t make a mock-up of this pattern or compare the crotch curve to a previous pattern, but luckily it worked out well.  I assumed that culottes would have a lowered crotch to look more like a skirt, and would be easy to fit.

Waistband of Culottes

I made a size 14, and the waist would have been way too big if the front wasn’t also elasticized.  I had to stretch the original waistband mightily to make it fit!

These are being worn! Not just on weekends, but to the office, too.

Culottes Refashion

Culottes Back

These culottes catch every breeze, and I don’t have to worry about wearing a slip or chafing.

Every make I’ve seen of culottes on sewing blogs has a reveal shot showing that it’s not a skirt.

Should I do it?

I couldn’t resist.

Culottes Reveal Shot



















Calendar Towel Aprons

Most of us remember calendar towels from our childhoods or have given or received one as a gift at Christmas.  The idea is to hang the printed linen or cotton towel from the included dowel for the year, and then to take it down and  use it as kitchen towel when the year is through.

Calendar Towel and Hand Beater

Introduced in the 1950s they feature many different themes such as food, birds, lighthouses, covered bridges, patriotism, and flowers, and often have a homey, retro quality.  They are collectible for their scenes, as well as in commemoration of a particular year.  My interest was spurred when I was given one, and then I began to look for others.

Calendars repeat themselves, and the calendars for the years 2009, 1998, 1987, 1981, 1970, 1959, and 1953 are the same as the current year of 2015.  Next year will be a leap year, and only a 1960 or 1988 calendar will have the same layout.  I found this chart for recycling calendars which was inspired by a Simpsons episode.

I’ve been enjoying this 1970 apple themed calendar towel in my kitchen this year.  Besides being charming and retro , it’s also an accurate calendar for 2015.

1970 Apple Calendar Towel

Apple Pie Calendar Towel

I love calendar towels with verses.

Calendar Towels

Often these towels end up forgotten and unused in a drawer. I have seen calendar towels made into cute tote bags and pillows, but the simplest thing to make is an apron.  These are so quick and easy to make with a sewing machine or even by hand stitching, that you can whip one up in time for your holiday cooking.  So search your linen closet, find an old towel, and let’s get started.

I folded in a wedge on both sides at the top and stitched it down.  I chose not to cut off any part of the towel.

From Towel to Apron - Folding in Sides at Top

Then I sewed on a neck strap to the top, and finished by sewing on a strap on either side at waist level to tie in back.

Apron Neck Straps

My neck straps are about 20 to 22 inches.  I originally cut them several inches longer to be sure I had enough room to fit them over my head and also to be able to turn under an inch on each end.

Apron Waist Ties

I cut two waist ties for each apron.  The length of one apron’s ties is 32 inches, and the other I made a bit longer at 37 inches.  Plan on adding an extra 2 inches for turning under the edges for a neat finish.  I sewed the straps to the apron with a little rectangle.

Stitch on Straps with Rectangle


I made the first apron with a quilt theme towel and a cotton measuring tape ribbon I bought at the dollar spot at Target.  I also made and applied a dark red bias tape trim around the entire towel for a pretty finish.

1990 Calendar Towel - Rocking Chair and Quilt Theme

Cotton Measuring Tape Ribbon from Target Dollar Spot

Calendar Towel Made into Apron with Bias Binding


For the second towel to apron conversion I paired  my fruit themed towel with a strawberry print fabric to create the ties for the neck and waist.

Calendar Towel and Tea for Two Fabric for Ties

I didn’t turn the straps. Instead, I folded the edges of the fabric strips over toward the center and then in half again lengthwise to envelop the raw edges.  I then stitched them down.

Apron Strings


Fruit Calendar Towel Apron in Retro Kitchen

Two Calendar Towel Aprons

I’ve never understood the point of half aprons; they don’t cover the most spilled upon region.  These do the job, and are fun to wear.

Do you anticipate giving or receiving  a calendar towel for 2016?


Hawaiian Shirt Refashion

Hawaiian Flower ShotI just couldn’t resist this “Aloha from Hawaii” men’s large rayon shirt I found at the thrift store.  I thought it would be cool and fun to wear for my weekend getaways… to places like the drugstore.

Men's Hawaiian Shirt before refashionWhen I refashioned a man’s shirt for the first time I wrote:  “When refashioning a button-up shirt you have three choices: keep the buttons in front, turn it around and put the buttons in back, or eliminate the buttons altogether by cutting out the placket or sewing it up.”

I’d already done the first two alternatives, so I wanted to try the third option.

I removed the pocket, snipped up the sides of the shirt,  cut off the buttonholes and removed the buttons from the other side of the shirt.  I got out my Colette Sorbetto pattern to cut out the shirt.  The back of the shirt became my new front.  I was able to cut it out below the yoke with the intention of using the original hem.

cutting new shirt front from back of shirt below yoke

new front of shirt cut on fold

Since I was going to be putting a seam in the back, I placed my pattern pieces about 5/8 in from the edge allowing for a seam allowance on both pieces.

cutting 2 back pieces from front

Once I had my pieces cut out, I stay stitched the neck to keep it from stretching out of shape.  Every time I make a shirt I’m always making changes trying to get the darts right.  This time I kept them at 1 inch wide, but I moved them down 1 inch to start at 3 1/2 inches down from the top of the shirt and I had them end 5 inches from the side of the shirt.  It worked; they looked good, and no armhole gap.

I sewed up the back seam, leaving a slit at the bottom.  I decided to add a feature I’ve never tried before: a keyhole opening at the neck, with a button closure.  I was unsure how to do this – with facing? bias tape? do I cut further into the seam allowance?  I cut a slight oval because I wanted the opening to be visible.  I used bias tape made from the shirt and had to redo it a few times before I was satisfied.

Keyhole Fail

Keyhole Fail

Improved Keyhole

I machined basted the side seams, made fitting adjustments, and then took the shirt apart and transferred the changes to the pattern.

I took one sleeve and made 1/2 inch bias binding from it for the neckline, armholes, and keyhole.  I used the binding as facing, sewing it to the right side of the shirt and then turning it completely to the inside and stitching it down close to the edge.

Sleeve used for cutting bias strips

Cut bias strips ready for folding with gizmoI reattached the tags as I sewed the neckline.  I finished by making a thread loop for the button.

Inside of shirt

Inside of shirt

When I started cutting the shirt, I noticed that the shirt had a strategic print placement with most of the hula girls and airplanes on the front of the shirt, while the print on the back was more subdued.  At first I worried that I had made a mistake turning the shirt around, but decided I liked the new less loud front just fine.

Hawaii Shirt RefashionedHawaiian Shirt Front


I wore it right away!  I love it! The calendar may say fall, but the weather in southern California still feels like summer with shorter days.  Now if I can just find a solid color men’s rayon shirt I will be all set for any occasion.

Hawaiian Shirt Refashion pic (800x400)

Men's Hawaiian Shirt Refashion Back with Center Seam and Keyhole

Look who also posed with this enormous hibiscus flower.  I caught some funny expressions as Sparky smelled it, licked it, and cast an uncomfortable sidelong look at it.

Fashion Magazine Inspired Refashions

I’m not someone who follows fashion trends; I like simple, basic clothes.  This summer I was thumbing through a fashion magazine, I believe it was “In Style”, and decided I would try something different.

White and Yellow Inspiration for Refashion Inspired by two fashion trends: “be breezy in white” and “brighten your look with yellow”, I searched the thrift store for white and yellow items for my refashion.  These are colors I don’t generally wear.  White can be harsh and stark to wear and yellow can look unflattering with some skin tones.

I found a yellow button-down cotton shirt and a white cotton skirt with black floral embellishment.  Close enough!

yellow shirt and white skirt before refashionThe shirt was just your basic boxy shirt with a breast pocket, and the skirt had a waistband, a side zipper and stitched down pleats starting several inches below the waist.  The skirt was too small for me at the waist, but hit at my lower calf giving me the plenty of extra length to make changes.

This is a long post so I moved up my reveal:

Yellow Shirt and White Skirt before and after

Here’s what I did:

I cut off the collar and sleeves of the shirt, and removed the pocket.  Then I cut about two inches from the bottom of the shirt, and used it to make an applied casing on the inside of the shirt at the waist for a drawstring, and made the drawstring with the shirt fabric as well.  I didn’t have enough length for the drawstring so I used a piece of elastic, and attached the shirt fabric ties at both sides.  I made small eyelet buttonholes 1 and 1/2 inches in from the fabric edges for the openings for the drawstring.

Inside of shirt showing applied casing for drawstringeyelet openings for drawstring sewn 1 1/2 inch from edges of shirt I made a new buttonhole at the top of the shirt and used yellow bias tape I already had to finish the neckline. I also added armseye darts to snug up the armhole.

Sleeveless or sleeves?  I debated this with myself, and decided to make cap sleeves from the original sleeves.  They don’t go all the way around the armhole so I still needed to use bias tape to finish the armholes.

cutting cap sleeve from original sleeve

Inside of cap sleeve showing bias tape

Inside of cap sleeve showing bias tape

On to the skirt:  I removed the invisible zipper and cut  several inches off the top to make a knee length skirt.  Because I was cutting away more than the waistband, my too small skirt was now too big and I cut a wedge off of the sides.

I used my favorite finishing on a refashioned skirt:  a zipper plus 1 inch foldover elastic for a waistband.  This is the third time I’ve used this technique; it’s also featured in my most popular post  “Easy fix for too small skirt”. 

I like the ease of putting on a skirt with a side opening, and the slight stretch to the waist results in a good fit while keeping a flat look to the waistband instead of a gathered one.  I started with the waist about 1 and 1/2 half inch bigger than I wanted before adding the elastic.

Is this an easy fix?  Well, not exactly, unless you or someone you know can tackle putting in a zipper. I used this Colette tutorial   for installing an invisible zipper.

I sewed the foldover elastic to the wrong side stretching the elastic only slightly, then trimmed the excess fabric, and folded over with my fingers to cover the zigzags as I sewed the elastic to the right side to finish.

sewing foldover elastic to right side of skirtnew top of skirt with foldover elastic

I tried several different ways of styling my new white and yellow separates with a few added pieces.  I substituted navy for the alternate outfit for the shirt because I don’t have any white pants or shorts.

skirt with yellow tank and white shirt tied at waist

Refashioned yellow shirt with Sparky

So, do I look breezy and bright?  Or should I step away from the yellow and white?

Which outfit do you like best?  Do you wear white or yellow?