Men's Shirt into Retro Dress

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

My brother accidentally bought a shirt that was far, far too large for him. Rather than return it, it sat in the bottom of a cupboard for months doing nothing, so I kindly offered to take it off of his hands. Being quite a large shirt, there was plenty of material to work with for my latest refashion, as you can see it swamps me!

I do have a love of all things vintage, so I decided that a retro style sun dress would be a great project. This is probably my most ambitious upcycle to date, and it wasn't plain sailing but i'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, so... grab yourself a large shirt and let the refashioning commence!

I should mention that you'll also need a bit of extra fabric to create the collar, and 1 hook and eye fastener. I had the smallest slither of red plaid left, and I thought it would go nicely with the black.

1. To start with, chop off the arms as close to the seams as possible (keep these, we'll be using them later!), and cut off the collar straight across the shoulders. Then cut the shirt in two pieces- the top piece is for the bodice and the bottom piece is for the skirt. You'll want the skirt to be about twice as long as the bodice but alter the ratio to suit your shape. Bear in mind also, that the top 2 inches of the bodice will be folded down to create the collar trim.
NOTE: Be sure not to cut too close to the button holes, chop right through the middle so you've got equal amounts of fabric either side of the cut.

2. Pin the bodice around your torso with the right sides together (inside out) and the buttons done up (at this point, it would be useful to get a friend to help). Start pinning it in so that it fits you nicely- don't make it too tight though or you'll find it strains at the buttons! This was the hardest part, and I found that the best way to get the right fit was to keep trying it on, altering it bit by bit. You should aim to pin it in at both of the sides under the arm pits first, and then under the bust. Carefully take it off, and using your pins as a guide, mark with tailors chalk where you need to sew. Remember to leave yourself room for error by not making your bodice too small, it's easier to sew an additional seam in than to unpick one... as I learnt the hard way!

3. Once you've got your bodice fitting you nicely, it should look a little something like this. You should be able to see that I've folded the top 2 inches down, this is going to form a retro style collar I mentiones earlier, and will be covered with the strip of fabric I mentioned earlier. But for now, move on to the skirt.

4. Get the bottom part of the shirt, and cut it vertically straight down the back middle.

5.Then get those sleeves, chop off the cuffs and cut them in half long ways. This opens out the sleeves to give you extra fabric that we'll sew into the skirt to give it more volume.

6. See how I've laid out the sleeves in between the 2 skirt panels that I cut in half- this is how they will be stitched together, but forst you need to sew the sleeve panels together with a straight stitch, and close off the raw edges with a zig zag stitch. If you have any wonky lines on the lower unhemmed edge (as I did in the above photo), give them a quick trim so they match the shape of the 2 skirt pieces. Then, hem the lower edge of the sleeves. Now they are ready to be sewn into the skirt, one edge at a time- be sure to line up the lower hems so that it doesn't look out of place.

7. Time to gather the skirt now on the upper raw edge; sew a straight stitch (change your machine settings so you can sew a stitch with loose tension, and long in length) all the way across. You may find it easier to work in sections so you don't have to sew across any hems that could snap your thread when being pulled together. Gently gather your skirt, keeping the bodice near as a point of reference- you'll need the width of the gathered skirt to be the same width as the lower edge of the bodice.

8. Pin the bodice and skirt 'right sides' together and sew across with a straight stitch, Finish off the the hem with a zig zag stitch.
You should be able to see the dress taking shape now! BUT you'll need to finish off the upper raw edge, which is where the additional contrasting fabric comes in. You will need to cut 3 strips:
-1 x strip that is 2 inches longer than the width of the bodice, and 3 inches wide.
-2 x strips that are 2 inches wide, and 20 inches wide (these are for the straps, 20 inches should give you plenty of room for error!).

9. Use an iron to press the bottom raw edge of the long strip up 0.5 inches.

10. Pin the the raw edge of the strip, to the raw edge of the bodice, right sides together. Fold the over-hanging ends in and pin those in place, then sew a straight stitch all the way across.
Once the strip has been stitched down, fold it across the other way, so it is now 'inside' the dress, with the ironed edge flapping loose. You will now need to stitch this ironed edge down, get as close to the edge as you can. Once you've done this, fold and iron the strip so that it takes the form of the collar. I'd recommend sewing across again with another straight stitch to keep the collar folded down in place.

11. For the straps, get your 2 smaller strips of fabric, and fold them in half long ways, right sides together and stitch into 2 long, thin tubes. Turn them in the right way using this amazing bobby pin trick that I learnt from this blog (Dimity's Fiber Adventures). Where you sew the straps down is a matter of preference, I pinned them where I thought they should go, tried the dress on and marked accordingly. I had to cut a few inches off the length to make them short enough, then I pressed up the edges with an iron and sewed them to the dress with 2 parallel straight stitches on each join.

Almost done now... I promise!

12. The top of the dress is probably flapping around a bit, and that will never do! To give the collar a nice curve, I did a type of 'concertina' fold with the edges of the collar forming an 'M' shape. I then pinned the fold in place and sewed it down with a straight stitch.

13. To keep the dress closed at the top, I sewed in the hook and eye fasteners.

The result should be a light, floaty, retro style dress that buttons down the front!

 I am rather tall so it does come up a little short on me so realistically I'd probably wear this with leggings. Here is the finished product, let me know if you try this out!

Refashion a Long Sleeve T-Shirt into a 50s Halterneck top

Monday, 30 June 2014

Before & after of t-shirt upcycle

Whenever I want to refashion something I often consider what can be done with my old t-shirts because there is always so much potential for upcycling. There is something about the stretchiness of the fabric gives you a lot of room to work with. I've only worn this t-shirt a few times, and I felt that it was in need of some serious jazzing up if I was going to wear it anymore as it was a bit plain. I knew I wanted to make a halterneck top, but I wanted more of a 50s edge to it so after some trial and error I came up with this refashioning tutorial.

Get hold of a long sleeved t-shirt; it's crucial that the sleeves are long as they create the halterneck! This will work best if the t-shirt is a little bit larger than you want it to be as you will need to sew in the side seams.

Here is my t-shirt on the mannequin in it's original form before I started chopping it up. It's just a simple long-sleeved, high neck t-shirt.

Chop off the top of the t-shirt, straight across from shoulder to shoulder. Keep hold of the scraps as you'll need those later.

Hem this raw edge you've just created with a zig-zag stitch to keep everything neat. Roll it over twice so the raw edge is tucked neatly inside and pin it in place before stitching.

Try the top on, so that it sits like a tube top, with the sleeves under your armpit creating a crazy kind of 'extra pair of arms' effect. Establish how much you need to bring the hems in on each side to give you a good fit around the waist and bust. As the fabric is stretchy you have room for error, so I made a rough estimate by seeing how much fabric I could pinch on either side. Not very exact I know, but that is joy of working with t-shirts! I brought it in by about 1 inch on each side.

Some people have given me feedback about an issue they had with a pocket of fabric under the armpit. I have updated this step to rectify the situation:
The next part is the trickiest bit of the tutorial as you need to fold the sleeves so that they lie flat inside the t-shirt. Firstly, turn the top inside out, but not the sleeves. Keep them turned the 'right way'- this should mean that they are still inside the body of the top, as illustrated with my very technical drawing on the right! Make the sleeves as flat against the top as possible, and make sure that the long top edge of the sleeves is running parallel with the top edge of the shirt in the upper left and right corners. The sleeves also need to be angled upwards by gathering the fabric at the top, on the outside of the sewing lines. This will remove any surplus fabric when you come to sew the halterneck straps later in the tutorial. Pay attention to the position of the sleeves in connection to the sewing lines!

Here is a close up of what the arm holes look like from the side. It is a bit of trial and error to pin them in place in a tidy, flat position but it can be done.
When the sleeves are pinned into position you will need to run a zig-zag stitch straight up the side seams (where I have illustrated with black lines in the above photo). The placement of your seams depends on the rough measurements you took when trying on the top earlier.

Once you've sewn the seams, trim away the excess.
You should have a neat, tube top with the 2 sleeve flaps on the inside

Flip it the right way out and you'll see that the sleeves are coming out of the side of the seam. Position them as I have angled them in the photo on the left, pin them down in this position to the top layer of the t-shirt (not both layers!!) and sew them down with a zig-zag stitch.

Here is a close up so you can see where I have stitched it down.

To create the tie bit that gives it that great gather at the front, collect all the pieces of scrap t-shirt that you have chopped off. Cut 2 rectangle strips of fabric that are at least 5 inches long and 2 inches wide. Fold each one in half long ways, and sew along the longest edge with a zig-zag stitch. When you get to the end, taper your stitch inwards to seal off the end and give it a pointed tip. The opposite end should be left open so you can flip it through the right way after trimming off the excess fabric at the tapered end. I didn't have much excess to work with for this upcycle so one of my ties is a bit short!!

Pin one of the ties on to the centre front of the shirt, about 3 inches below the neckline. Stitch it on at the base with a zig-zag stitch. Flip the top inside out and sew the other tie in the exact same position but on the opposite side of the top. Trim away any excess fabric from the tie so that you have a nice, clean edge.

As you can see in this photo on the left, when both ties are pulled up and tied into a knot, they are going to create a pretty gathered effect!

The last step to complete the refashion is to sew the ends of the sleeves together to create the halterneck effect. Pin the sleeves right side together and stitch them closed with a tight zig-zag stitch.

And you're done!

Hopefully your finished product should look something like this below, I teamed it with some pearls and I think this top would look great worn under a circle skirt, a pencil skirt or with denim shorts. The deep neck line and the thick halterneck straps give it a kind of 50s look that will work well with lots of different outfits.

Let me know if you try this out!

Refashioning a Jacket: Basic Altering/Tailoring Tutorial

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

My other half was planning on throwing away this old military style jacket that he no longer wore, but I salvaged it because I saw the potential there for improvement and I knew I couldn't miss out on the opportunity for a refashion! As you can see from the pictures before the upcycle below, the jacket looks rather shapeless on me, and so I set out to turn this manly jacket into something tailored and feminine.

This particular jacket wasn't lined which made it a lot easier to alter so if you're going to try this I'd recommend using a lightweight, non-lined jacket also. This tutorial covers a couple of basic tailoring techniques, so all you'll really need for this refashion is the jacket you intend to alter, along with your sewing paraphernalia. I chose to embellish my jacket with some buttons and patches, but this is optional!

Jacket Refashion Tutorial
Firstly, lay the jacket you wish to upcycle out flat, and cut off the sleeves as close to the seam as possible. Lay your sleeves to one side for now. If you wish to crop your jacket, then trim away the bottom of it so that the overall length is 1.5 inches longer than the desired length. I would suggest trying it on before cutting away the bottom so you know how much to chop off.

To give it a slimmer, more feminine fit I needed to take in the side seams. To do this, put the jacket on whilst inside out and got a friend to help you pin it in so that it's a good fit to your own shape. You can do this yourself but it's slightly awkward!
Make sure that you start your seam from the bottom of the arm hole, bringing it in and making it smaller. Bear in mind that however tight you make the arm holes, this will be close to the final outcome.  Remember not to make it too tight as you'll want to make sure you can comfortably wear it over your clothes.

After I pinned it, I drew a marker in white tailors chalk as to where I would sew the new seam, and sewed it with a straight stitch. To hem the edges you can use a zig-zag stitch on a regular machine, or an overlocker if you're lucky enough to have one.

Now, keeping your jacket inside out, turn it over so you can work on putting 'dart seams' in the back. Dart seams help to make the garment nip in at just the right places, and require a little bit of basic measuring.
Decide how long they need to be, the dart should start where the jacket starts to get baggy so you will need to try it on again inside out and get someone to help you mark where the darts should begin. The lines I've drawn on in white show where you should sew (fold the jacket in the centre of the lines, and sew along the white lines).

Tailoring is a case of trial and error, so try it on again and check the arm holes. If they are too lose and baggy then sew a dart seam on the arm hole; start roughly in the centre and point the dart seam to the chest.

Now get the sleeves from earlier and lay them out flat, with the shoulder seam at the top. Lay the jacket arm hole across the top of the sleeve and mark the shape out with tailors chalk.

As you can see, I am losing quite alot of material at the top of my sleeve- this is because I want the sleeves to be shorter. Chop of along the dotted line.

If your sleeves need to be nipped in then fold them inside out, try them on and mark with pins where they need to be taken in. Mine only needed a slight nip tuck.

Pin the sleeves into position in the armhole, with right sides together. Secure with a straight stitch and overlock the edges.

I finished off the bottom seam of the jacket with a rolled hem & straight stitch...

...and voila! The finished refashion! I felt the jacket was a little plain so I embellished it with a couple of iron on patches. Also, I replaced the buttons with gold coloured ones for a proper military look.

Military Jacket Refashion- AFTER

Military Jacket Upcycle- AFTER

Now I have a cute, lightweight jacket I can wear for the not-so warm summer days. If you have any tips or ideas on projects for old jackets then I'd love to hear them.




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Hello and welcome to my blog! I'm a seamstress with a passion for refashioning clothing, and I've decided to document my creations and share my upcycling tutorials. My aim is to inspire people to re-use and re-love the clothes that they already own.

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