Halloween Costume Refashion: DIY Sexy Witch Dress Tutorial

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Oh how I love Halloween, what a great time of the year. I may be a full grown adult but I won't let that stop me from getting fully involved in the festivities. It seemed only fitting that I created an upcycle tutorial to show you how to make a costume out of old t-shirts (old t-shirts... is there anything they can't be turned to?!). I think the dress I've made looks suitable for a Witch costume, but it's quite a versatile tutorial.

On to the upcycling tutorial! You will require 2 t-shirts, in contrasting colours. One of them needs to be quite large to give you enough fabric to make a dress that isn't horribly revealing! My boyfriend sacrificed this Thin Lizzy t-shirt because it was covered in bleach stains, but that will be disguised by flipping it inside out.

1. Measure your bust, waist and hips, halve this measurement and then add on 1 inch for seam allowance (eg, bust = 34 inches, halved that is 17 inches, plus 1 inch seam allowance = 18inches). Use these measurements to draw the outline of your dress on the large t-shirt, then cut out. Put the excess to one side as we will need that later.

2. Take the top layer of your dress, and cut it into 3 as shown in the photo (I've flipped my t-shirt over to hide the logo and bleach marks). The centre panel needs to be at least 4 inches wide. Only do this with one of the dress layers, not both.

 3. Lay the centre panel over your contrasting t-shirt, try to lay it across the longest point. As you can see, my green t-shirt isn't quite long enough but that's fine, you can get away with it being a few inches shorter.
 4. Cut, pin, and sew the two panels together as close to the edge as possible. You can see that my green panel 'grew' a bit whilst I was sewing it down. Jersey fabric has a tendency to do that so be careful!
 5. Cut horizontal slashes across the panel, all the way up. Don't be afraid to get right up to the edge of the stitching.
 6. It should look like this when you're done cutting. Get your 2 side panels from earlier and re-attach them using a sewing machine with a straight stitch (and a zig-zag stitch to finish off the edges if you're feeling fancy).
 7. Not sure what I did with my camera here, but apologies for the blurry photo! You should have something that looks a little bit like this, you can see it taking shape now. Get your back dress panel and stitch it to this panel, right sides together. Voila... one refashioned tube dress! Hem the top and bottom edges by folding the hems over inwards, and zig-zag stitch them down.
 8. Now on to those sleeves. Take the discarded t-shirt remnant from your large t-shirt. Lay the sleeves of it out flat, and cut off the hemmed edge strip. You want it to be at least 1.5 inches wide. Next, cut out a shape that looks like a quarter of a circle. As the sleeve is folded in half, it will be a semi-circle when unfolded. Just work with what you've got here, there is no exact measurement but I would suggest that if you're unsure, make your quarter circle as big as you can, and cut it down later if you need to.
 9. Snip your edge strip so that it opens out to be one long strip, open up your quarter circle to it's full semi-circle glory and lay them as so in the photo, right sides together. Stitch the semi-circle onto the strip.
 10. You will have an excess of fabric running the length of the strip where you have stitched the sleeve down. Pin it under and stitch it down.
 11. Cut the sleeve in a Halloweeny, fashion to create a ragged edge. Witches don't want neat sleeves! Now stitch the sleeve onto your tube dress. I would recommend trying it on, and pinning/adjusting/trimming the sleeve until your happy with the fit.
 12. This is optional, but I think it really brings it all together once the sleeves are attached. Take your contrast t-shirt and cut out 2 long, thin strips from it (mine were 18 inches long, and 1.5 inches wide). Tie them in bows around the bottom of your sleeves to create a couple of very Witchy bows.
Here is the finished costume; just add a witches hat and a broom and you've got yourself one very sexy Halloween costume at a fraction of the price of a store bought costume. You could apply this technique to different coloured t-shirts to create a variety of different costumes. For example, a red and black t-shirt combo could be a 'fallen angel' or devil dress depending on what accessories you add. Use your imagination... go wild it's Halloween! As always, if you have a crack at this tutorial, please do share your results, I love to see what people come up with.

Happy Halloween refashioning!

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!




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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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