Retro Apron Tutorial: Refashion a Skirt into 50s Apron

Sunday, 21 December 2014

I've had this mini skirt for a while, I love the print of the fabric but sadly it's coming to the ends of it's lifespan. I wanted to try something a little experimental, and didn't mind sacrificing this skirt for the cause! My idea was to create a 50s retro apron tutorial, with pockets and a sweetheart style neckline. 

Here is the before & after:

To recreate this retro apron, you won't need any additional supplies for this (except the thread!!) so long as your skirt has  lining to it. So find yourself a lined skirt and lets get to it.

**If you're feeling particularly ambitious you could do this from any fabric, but there will be more finishing of raw edges involved**

All you will need is your usual sewing supplies, scissors, pins, tape measure, thread and sewing machine.

1. The first order of business is to cut away the lining from your skirt, preserving the fabric as much as possible by cutting close to the seams.

 2. I cut the lining into 6 pieces, the sizes of which will vary according to the skirt you are using. The halterneck straps can be quite thin if you don't have much fabric, but need to be at least 1.5 inches wide, and 18 inches long. The waist ties need to be as long as you can get them, ideally at least 20 inches in length each, and 3 inches wide. My pockets were 7 inches by 6 inches. For the bodice, I have just cut a section out of the skirt that is 10 inches in width. The length is determined by the length of the skirt.

3. Here, I have led the pieces out so you can see how the apron will take shape.

 4. Fold all of your strap pieces in half length ways, sew them up, leaving one end open to turn them through, and taper off the opposite end to give you a nice edge. Press with the iron if desired for a cleaner look.

 5. Hem all 4 edges of each pocket. I rolled each side over twice so there were no raw edges.

 6. To taper the bodice quickly, fold in half length wise. Trim off the top and bottom to straighten up if necessary, and cut diagonally across the raw side edge, to make the top section wider than the waist.

 7. Hem the 2 long side edges and leave the bottom edge raw. Pin the hem of the top edge in place, and insert the halterneck straps at the outer corners, so they are fully tucked under the hem. Stitch across, and then do a top stitch on the front to secure them. To get the gathered effect to the bodice, I did a 'concertina' fold at the centre, pinned it either side and did a small straight stitch on top, about 0.5 inches long.

8. I didn't need to hem the top of the apron skirt, as it utilises the wast band of the skirt. I did however have to hem the bottom of the skirt, and the sides. Repeat the technique used with the halterneck straps to insert the waist ties at the top, outer side seams of the skirt.

9. Again, stitch on top to secure the flap hanging over the waist tie.

10. Decide where you want to position your pockets; pin in place and stitch 3 of the 4 sides down, being sure to secure the edges next to the opening.

11. Place the bodice on top of the skirt, right sides together, centre to centre. Pin in place, and stitch. However, make sure that the bodice is at least 3mm away from the edge, so that the raw edge of the bodice won't hang the clean edge of the skirt, as illustrated in the second photo.

12. Flip your bodice up, and top stitch it along the bottom edge. The raw edge of the bodice should be completely concealed between the bodice and waist band.

Hopefully you should now have something that looks like this:

I think it should make cooking feel much more glamorous from now on! Let me know if you try this, and please share the results as I'd love to see what others come up with. I think these aprons are great, if like me you're in love with all things retro. 

Till next time... Happy refashioning!

5 Techniques Every Upcycling Seamstress Should Know

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Another Halloween has come and gone; my favourite part about it has to be making my costume. My best friend since childhood and fellow fancy dress enthusiast Steph and I always get fully involved when it comes to costume making. I apply the same upcycling mind set to costumes that I do to refashioning my clothes. There are several trusty techniques at the core of my sewing repertoire that I often come back to, so it occurred to me that  I should share a round up of the resources that I use time and time again. Not only will this (hopefully) give people a bit of inspiration when it comes to their own refashions, but I also wanted to give credit to the creative minds that have inspired me.

So here we go, 5 simple skills that will have you transforming your old clothes (and possibly old curtains) in no time!

1. DIY Velvet Circle Skirt Tutorial  

By Annika Victoria, author of The Pineneedle Collective

The circle skirt is a classic, but I found this tutorial particularly helpful because Annika clearly explains the mathematics required to make your own pattern. This is useful if, like me, your memory of the Pi equation is somewhat lacking.

My top uses for circle skirts:
  • Turn bed sheets, table cloths or any large pieces of fabric into retro skirts with minimal sewing.
  • Make a top into a dress by adding a circle skirt to the bottom.

2. Tutorial: How to Make Bias Binding 

By Maris, author of Sew Maris

My attempts at making my own bias binding were rather lackluster before I found Maris' blog. She shows you clearly through the use of great photos how you should cut your bias tape and stitch it together. She has many detailed tutorials on her blog so it's definitely worth following to tap into her wealth of sewing knowledge.

My top uses for bias binding:

  • Give a skirt or dress a facelift by adding contrasting binding to the hem.
  • Brighten up a cardigan by adding binding to the neck and sleeves.

3. Basic Ruffle Tutorial 

By Andrea, author of It's The Life

Ah ruffles; what a great way to spruce up a long forgotten garment! If you're unsure how to go about adding ruffles then I suggest you head over to Andrea's blog as she breaks it down for you very clearly, and even follows on from this tutorial with how to attach the ruffles to a hem.

My top uses for ruffles:

  • Everything! I'd put a ruffle on everything if I could, but they look particularly fancy around the neckline of a blouse or the hem of a skirt.

4. Shirring With Elastic Thread 

By Rae, author of  Made By Rae

Having had no idea how to shirr, I found this to be the most helpful tutorial when I first began. Shirring is a great skill to have under you belt because, as Rae mentions in her post, by adding a shirred back panel onto clothing you can omit the need for a zip. It's a great way to put some stretch into non-stretch fabric, plus it looks pretty too.

My top uses for shirring:

  • Cinch in a waist on an oversized top.
  • Turn a long skirt into a summer dress by shirring the top to create a bodice. 

5. Shrink That Dress: a DIY Tailoring Tutorial 

By Sheri, author of Confessions of a Refashionista

This easy to follow video tutorial shows you the ultimate skill in upcycling clothing: re-sizing an overly large garment. With this sewing skill in your arsenal, it opens you up to a world of opportunities when it comes to making something fresh.

My top uses for tailoring:
  • Tailor a man's shirt into a feminine, tailored blouse.
  • Nip in the waist and bust of baggy clothing.

Well there we go, I hope these clever ladies will inspire your work as they have mine!

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!




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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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