Category Archives: Thrifting

Color Block Tees

I was working on a upcyling project that I had lost interest in when the July sewing challenge for the Sew Over 50 Instagram group launched. The challenge was to mix at least 2 solid colors in a garment. OK, I’ll play!

I had done color blocking with raglan tees (also known as baseball tees) before, but that’s about all. I had a few old tees and other tees that I bought for a dollar each at a garage sale that I thought would be fun to experiment with.

BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern is a book I have had in my library for years. It was published December of 2012 and has examples of styles from the 1920s to the 80s. I almost never make anything from sewing books but I used to enjoy browsing through them at the bookstore, and this is a book I actually bought in person. How old fashioned, ha! I liked the Veronica Geometric Top, and used the illustration for my inspiration. In the book, this top is an example of an 1980s inspired look.

My mother had a similar woven color blocked top circa 1960. Fashion does tend to be cyclical. I remember bright color blocked dresses from the 1960s mod era. The most famous color blocked garment is the Mondrian inspired dress introduced by Yves St. Laurent in 1946.

See more examples in the article: The History of Color Blocking.

For my project, I drew out a basic boxy tee and then made 2 cuts.

I used 4 colors, blues and gray, making a v-front and putting the little lavender triangle of fabric in the back.

The joining of the fabrics to a point was tricky. It’s more of a skill that quilters have than a garment seamstress.

Then I made a second tee with a variation on the same shirt but with only one diagonal cut to the pattern. I used a coral tee for 2/3 of the shirt and periwinkle blue for the rest. I sewed v-neckbands for both tees. They are a little tricky – I had to read a few tutorials.

I even did a little piecing within my block, choosing to make the join using the original shirt hem overlapping to make it part of the design. The back of the shirt is shown with the close-up on the left:

I feel prints are more fun to sew than solids, but combining solids creates an interesting look. I love these!

I also sketched out other color block combinations I might want to try.

I would put the cut in this shirt over the bustline.

Either of these would be striking with black on the sides, or combining a print and a solid.

Just some ideas for possible future projects. Of course, there are many other ways of combining solids, whether for woven fabrics or for knits. Sew creative!

Spring Decor Crafting and Sewing

I love decorating for holidays! I made two little projects for spring and the Easter season.

I used to do more crafting before I started sewing and missed this type of project. The wreath was made with a wire frame with ribbon wrapped around it, ribbon mesh, and plastic eggs from the dollar store. I kept playing around with it and changing it.

Previous versions:

I looked at some tutorials but ended up improvising something very simple and fast, because I didn’t think I had enough supplies for a wreath with ribbon pieces tied on and didn’t have the knack of weaving the ribbon, both of which I initially attempted. I inserted wire into the egg openings to attach them. I thought the wreath needed something else so I added a flower I already had.

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I saved an old ripped quilt with the idea of upcycling part of it in a project. I love textiles, and always have ideas about repurposing. I thought I had better hop to it and actually follow through with an idea so I don’t become a crazy hoarder.

I found a silhouette of a rabbit I liked from Positively Splendid. The pattern prints on one page and I estimated it would be about 9 and 1/2 inch finished. I wanted a bigger bunny, and I found out that this is very easy to do directly in the printer interface. I increased custom scale and selected poster for page sizing. I tried a layout with 4 pages but decided on a 2 page layout with a scale of 125% for a finished size of 12 inches high.

I fussy cut the quilt to place the star on the rabbit body. Then I zigzagged around the perimeter to keep the 3 layers together, and sewed the two sides together leaving an opening for turning. Clip into those curves first!

I stuffed the bunny with pieces of the quilt, hand sewed the opening closed, added a bow, and done!

Cute! Happy Spring!

Floral Phoenix Blouse by Hey June

Flower power! This top reminds me of what I might have worn in the 70s.

This was the second year the Phoenix Blouse was on my Make Nine list, and I had the perfect fabric, so I sewed up this spring version out of season.

The description states: the Phoenix Blouse is a cute and casual boho style top in two views. View A features 3/4 length bell sleeves while View B is a flattering sleeveless style. Both view have a yoke with slit opening, front and back gathers, and a shaped back yoke. The pattern was designed for very lightweight fabrics that drape well. I chose to sew view A from a beautiful floral cotton lawn I bought at an estate sale in my neighborhood several years ago. There were about five plastic bins of fabric for $5 each that were duct taped closed. What a steal! I regret only buying one bin. Cotton lawns are hard to come by as a second hand fabric so I was very excited to sew with it. The piece of fabric was 40 inches selvedge to selvedge and 84 inches long. It’s a lovely vintage fabric, and now that I have the sewing chops to do it justice, the time has come for it to shine.

I cut a size 12 according to my high bust and hip measurements which gives me 4 inches of ease in the bust and 7 inches of ease in the hip. I could have easily sized down but decided not to as I’m embracing ease as I get older. The finished garment measurements are given to help you pick the size for the desired fit. I did a half inch full bust adjustment on the yoke and shortened the sleeves by 2 inches to keep them from being full length on me.

The instructions are excellent, and the finishing is beautiful with double yokes and the burrito method providing a clean finish. Instead of the french seams suggested by the pattern, I elected to finish the side seams with flat fell seams. Gathering is a sewing technique featured in this pattern. Besides the gathering under the yokes, the sleeve caps are also gently gathered. Two rows of basting stitches are sewn, the threads are pulled to gather, and then the seam is sewn between the two rows of gathers. I used to make the mistake of sewing the seam below the two lines of stitching, but my technique and understanding has improved. Below is the curvy shape of the bell sleeve.

The fullness of the sleeve makes it very dramatic to wear.

I had fun showing the sleeves off with my poses, but they also look good when my arms are by my sides.

I love the back gathers and the shape of the yoke.

I hemmed by machine, but think a hand sewn hem, and even a hand rolled hem on the sleeves, would be nice in this light fabric. I intend to sew new pants to wear with the blouse by next spring. I would also make this blouse again with short sleeves, even though they’re not provided.

The phoenix blouse is a lovely pattern, is very enjoyable to sew, and I look forward to wearing this light, floaty top for years to come.

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.