Category Archives: Thrifting

Quick Summer Refashions

Is there such a thing as too hot to sew? For me, there is. My sewing area is not in my cool zone, and I don’t like to set up my ironing board on a hot day. Sometimes I try to cheat and sew without pressing when I should to avoid the iron, but that doesn’t work out so well.

Rayon is a cool fabric for summer, and I have two quick refashions to show you.

The first is from my own closet from over a decade ago. I didn’t sew then, and I bought the dress at the drugstore, which shows that I was never much of a clothes shopper. The dress was rarely worn, and became too tight in the bust, and the elastic didn’t sit in the right place. I didn’t have much fabric to work with so I didn’t use a pattern and just improvised. I made a bandeau top elasticized on the top back, and made straps fashioned from the leftover top pieces. I like the swingy shape from using the bottom of the dress.

The sun faces are upside down. I don’t think I noticed things like print placement before I started sewing.

The before photo is from over 10 years ago when I was in my late 40s.

The second refashion was of a maxi dress bought several years ago at the thrift store that needed to be resized. It’s one of those dresses with the thin ties that tie at the back to give some shaping to the waist. The length was perfect but I never properly finished the dress because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it , so it sat in the refashion pile. The border print was the prettiest part of the dress, so I decided to make another simple boxy top. I used my altered Maya pattern and black bias tape for the neckline.

Even though I also liked the dress, the top will get much more wear than the dress would have. I already have another dress with the same style but with a print that I like more that I’m keeping as is.

Using recycled fabric already in the system is also an example of sustainable sewing. This type of sewing is concerned with limiting ecological waste, and is an issue widely talked about in the sewing community.

“Sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in ways that are environmentally friendly. The whole idea behind “sustainability” in general and sustainable sewing in specific is that of leaving a minimal impact on the planet. This idea incorporates issues like carbon footprint, waste creation and disposal, and labor practices.”

A large portion of my sewing is sustainable. Most of the tops and dresses I sew fit this category with the fabrics sourced secondhand, but I usually have to buy new bottomweight fabric for pants and new knit fabric. I bought three different knit fabrics last year – a ponte, a cotton knit, and a rayon knit and sewed them all. I have no knit fabrics in stash. To be honest, I started sewing with secondhand fabrics as a more affordable way to sew, and not because of the environment. I also like the creativity of upcycling textiles such as making clothing from sheets, tablecloths, and scraps. I like using what I already have, and I love the advantages of sewing this way from both from a thrifty and environmentally friendly perspective.

Adventures in Quilting: Patchwork Placemats

Some say that sewing clothes is not cheaper than buying them. Well, it is in my case. I have managed to sew for cheap using thrifted fabric and patterns, discounted, and free patterns. I also get “free” fabric (and often free shipping depending on the seller) from Amazon with credit card points. I can make a top or shorts that I will wear for years from one yard of fabric. I can make pants and most everything else with only two yards. Quilting is a more expensive hobby. You need yards and yards of fabric, and then more fabric to coordinate with the main fabrics. Piecing is only the beginning, and there are many more steps to completion. Machine quilting is so awkward and difficult that some quilters are not even quilters – they send out for the quilting to be done professionally. While I will never be primarily a quilter, that doesn’t stop me from having quilting aspirations from time to time. I’ve collected a large number of fat quarters and fabric odds and ends over the past 15 years. Mostly, I have ideas and plans that never come to fruition.

Years ago, I bought some fabric pieces at the thrift store, including a stack of fabric cut into 4 x 6 inch rectangles. Some were already pieced together in a long sequence. The fabrics look dated and ugly together. It has been said if you don’t like a fabric you haven’t cut it small enough.

From the pile, I noticed some fabrics that coordinated together and would make impressionistic American flags. I decided to make placemats for the patriotic summer holidays. I bought a yard of navy stripe fabric for the backing, and navy for the binding.

They took me a long time to finish. I started last year, and the stitching looked so bad due to tension problems, that I gave up, and put them away.

In addition to the problems with my machine, my attempts at quilting were atrocious, and caused major distortions.

I also had tiny stitches from holding on too tightly while quilting. These placemats just looked sad!

I wanted to finish them this year. I started by spending an entire afternoon removing all the quilting. I was still having problems with finding a quilting pattern that I could sew well. I finally liked the way they looked when I changed to a chevron pattern. Each rectangle contains three lines of diagonal stitching. They finished at 12 1/2 by 16 1/2 inches. Done is good! And I am pleased with them.

I have watched various quilting videos over the years. Right now, I am a fan of Karen Brown of Just Get It Done Quilts. Karen has a website and You Tube Channel. I especially like her concept of an ugly quilt. Maybe I could make one of those! The idea is that a quilt that isn’t seen as perfect or special will actually be used and not just stored away. These everyday quilts aren’t just bed quilts, but can be used on the couch, in the yard, at a park, for the dog, etc. My dog digs and scrumples bedding so I wouldn’t have to worry about him wrecking it.

I also like watching the way Karen stacks fabric, makes blocks, then cuts them up and recombines them. Karen has great ideas for simple blocks and scrappy blocks. None of the quilts she makes are actually ugly, but I think I could manage that.

So, should I make something ugly from the rest of these rectangles and this long pieced strip?

Angelia Shorts Hack to Cargo Pants

I wanted to make a pants version of the shorts I made last year, the Angelia shorts by Itch To Stitch. I loved the patch pockets, zipper fly, and buttonhole and buttons details. I also wanted to change the pattern to have a partial elastic waist. My fabric is a light olive mostly cotton twill with about 10% stretch.

I enjoyed sewing these pants and love the look of them, but not the fit.

When I basted them and tried them on, I was disappointed. They were very baggy and full of drag lines in the back thigh, and the crotch was not right. The rise was too low. There was not enough room for my butt, and they dipped down at the back waist. I tried to save them by adding an inch to the waistband, but they are now too long in the front crotch and still too short in the back crotch length. It’s odd because the shorts fit me better in the rise and waist, but I guess I must have made some changes to that area when I altered the pattern. I also should have extended the elastic partway into the front, because they’re too loose in the front waist. One of the problems I have with the fit of close fitting pants legs is I have smaller than average thighs and larger calves. I might try a large calf alteration to help with the hang of the legs and to see if some of the wrinkles are caused by the fabric riding up from the lower leg. I was thinking to remake them into shorts, but if the crotch fit isn’t comfortable they won’t get worn. I have made so many clothes that are favorites in the last 2 or 3 years that I’m not used to a fail, but, to paraphrase Longfellow, into each sewing life some clunkers must fall. The poem is “The Rainy Day”.

The top is a refashion from a thrift store rayon skirt that I made last year but hadn’t written about. I loved the wonderful abstract print and fall colors with brown, tan, rust, and dark green.

The shape was wider and shorter than my pattern piece, but I like the way it worked out.

I have two more fall fabrics I wanted to sew to go with these pants, but I’m putting those plans on hold. I still would like a pair of pants in this color family, preferably a drab dark olive.

No more rainy day – tick-tock, do you know what time it is? Time for summer sewing!

Sleeves For Me – Rhapsody Blouse

My first make of 2021! I sewed the Rhapsody Blouse by Love Notions and chose the bias tie neckline and the bishop sleeve with an elasticized cuff.

I like the forward gathered shoulders and the close fit of the armhole.

I bought the fabric in two pieces totaling $2.50 several years ago at my little neighborhood thrift store run by a community church, and the pattern on sale for $5, so this is a thrifty make. Later, I found several holes in the fabric and hoped I had enough to work around. It is a lightweight, slippery fabric, and a perfect match for this pattern. It’s probably polyester, which I tend to avoid, but I love the print. I printed out a size medium, and I used the full bust piece. The comparison with the full bust piece on bottom and the regular piece on top:

The blouse is sewn with french seams. I used the serger to finish the armhole seams for a neat finish. I applied the bias tape binding differently than the instructions, first sewing it to the wrong side and then sewing it to the right side. Making and sewing the bias tape was the hardest part of working with this shifty fabric. I used starch to stabilize the fabric but I still had a few bad spots, but they aren’t too visible. I usually use bias tape as a facing, but this is exposed which is harder to sew. The size medium is a very good fit for me with just the right amount of ease. I only adjusted the body length and sleeve length for my short proportions.

I think it’s a lovely blouse. Peasant or bohemian blouses with dramatic sleeves have been the sewing rage for a few years, and I didn’t have anything like this in my wardrobe. I would like to made the pattern again in a floaty cotton, but change it up.

I wore it with another pair of Mountain View Pull-on Jeans by Itch to Stitch that I finished in December. I used the same stretch denim from Cali fabrics as I used last year, but this time I added more details including rivets, and topstitched back seams and pockets. It’s important to use a fabric with enough stretch for this pattern to be able to pull them over your hips. I wear the previous pair constantly at home and needed a backup.

I’m glad to check the Rhapsody pattern off my list and to have this blouse in my closet.

A Look Back at 2020

I sewed clothes! To be precise I sewed 17 clothing items: 5 pairs of pants, 3 shorts, 7 tops, 1 dress, and 1 skirt. This is 3 more than last year, despite being sick in the winter and then needing to change my sewing plans to sew masks. I think nearly everyone with a sewing machine sewed masks this year, especially early on when they weren’t available at the store. I not only sewed masks but I spent a lot of time looking up mask patterns and reading how to make masks that were more protective. Sewing to survive, literally.

I knitted quite a bit less this year due to hand problems, only completing 1 hat. I didn’t finish any other needlework, although I did start a cross stitch project toward the end of the year.

Of the bottoms I made I wore the navy ponte knit pants, the pull-on jeans, and the denim shorts the most – 1, 3, and 4 in the photos. The traditional zipper fly jeans I made were nicely sewn but the waist didn’t fit right so I never wore them. The last 2 pairs of pants were just finished in December so I don’t know their frequency of wear yet.

The tops I wore the most are the tee shirt and swing tank, 3 and 5. With tops I’m able to use more diverse fabric sources: a refashion from my own closet, a thrift store refashion, fabric from an estate sale, and a garage sale sarong.

Of this group I wore the masks the most.

Some of my stand out outfits:

I sewed 5 items from my Make Nine list from last year:

My other sewing goals were:

To buy and learn how to use a serger – I did this toward the end of the year. I haven’t used it very much as of yet.

To match stashed fabric with patterns, especially for tops – I did this well.

To buy fabric wisely, especially to buy more bottomweight fabric for pants – I did well with this, I also bought some knit fabric as I had none in stash.

Techniques I want to learn are sewing a collar and welt pockets – I only sewed a collar without a stand and no welt pockets yet, so this one did not happen.

Next signpost ahead: 2021

Button-up Willamette Shirt

 

I made the perfect match!  I paired the gingham fabric I bought at an estate sale a few years ago for $1 with the Willamette pattern by Hey June Handmade.

The pattern is for a casual boxy shirt with cut-on short sleeves, a collar,  and a placket that is sewn together instead of buttoned.

This pattern is easier and quicker to sew than a traditional shirt because there isn’t a collar stand, armhole seams, or even buttonholes.  However, I opted to change the pattern and made 5 buttonholes.  I used another shirt as a guide for placement.

I liked the opportunities in this pattern to play with the direction of my fabric, and cut the yoke, collar, and cuffs on the bias.  I decided to make the pockets blend in and cut them straight of grain.

I sewed a size 10 based on my high bust measurement.  It’s roomy with about 8 inches of ease, and doesn’t pull at all across the chest.  I could go down a size but glad I didn’t sew my full bust size of 14 which would have been too big for my shoulders and arms.

I believe the lavender gingham fabric to be a cotton and polyester blend.  It’s crisp, doesn’t wrinkle, and was a breeze to to sew.

I learned three new skills sewing the Willamette shirt.

  1. Sewing a double yoke:  This is sewn with a burrito technique to result in a clean finish with no raw edges visible on the inside. I did get it wrong the first time, and had to unpick.
  2. Cutting pattern pieces on the bias:  Although I have cut bias strips many times, I haven’t cut pattern pieces that way and had to look up how to do it.   I drew cross grain lines and then 45 degree grain lines on the pattern pieces.
  3. Sewing buttons on by machine:  I used the pretty blue foot that came with the machine for the first time.  I used fabric glue to keep the buttons in place before putting the foot down on top of them.  I also put the darning plate on to disengage the feed dogs.The back view:

I’m wearing the shirt with two other handmades: the Mountain View shorts and the Sorrento Bucket hat.  This pose shows the amount of ease in the shirt.

Gingham has a country look, doesn’t it?  I finished the shirt before Memorial Day weekend, and wore it out to go shopping.  I like this pattern.  It’s a nice change from both tee shirts and wide necked tops, and I would make a variation of it again.

 

Upcycled Boxy Tops

I used the Maya pattern by Marilla Walker to transform two cotton pillowcases and a rayon rectangular sarong cover-up into two unique tops. The Maya is a simple pattern with a generous amount of ease and cut-on sleeves without seams.

Top 1:

I used a pillowcase with an interesting asymmetrical print, and another with a  coordinating solid gray color.

I arranged my pattern pieces to use the deep hems of the pillowcases, and I finished my seams with flat fell seams on the inside. I drafted my own neck facing, because the one supplied by the pattern has a center seam, and I didn’t want bulk there. I used the plain pillowcase for the sides, sleeve cuffs, and facing.

I attached the pillowcase tag to the neckline.

I like the everyday comfort of cotton which gives this top a soothing, casual feel.

 

Top 2:

I bought this striking print pareo or sarong for $2 at a garage sale. It still had the tag attached with a copyright date of 1994 and a little booklet showing the many ways to wear it.

The print was so beautiful in its entirety, I hesitated to cut it up, but I felt it had stayed hidden in a drawer long enough.

I expanded my pattern pieces to be full size, and spent some time playing with the pattern placement.  I had originally wanted the lizards to be oriented vertically heading up towards my shoulder, but that didn’t work out.

I used french seams in the construction, and again attached the original tag.  I decided to use the fringe on the arms, but not on the bottom.

The top is quite eye catching with its statement print and different front and back. This rayon top feels dressier, and has a Southwestern look.

I’m always on the lookout for different sources of fabric to sew with.  What’s next?  I would love to find a pretty tablecloth, or maybe a linen towel.