irish dance dress – how hard can it be

the backstory
So I am not too sure of the sequence of events, but somewhere in between my saying to my sister, Eithne, that making a dress had to be easier than replacing the skirt of last years costume (her first solo dress), and her saying that it was difficult to find a new dress for her daughter Donna (neither of them saw anything they liked in the secondhand dresses for sale), that the idea of me making the dress came into play, and both of us having the same attitude, how hard can it be…..

Donna’s taste in dresses is relatively restrained.  She seemed to admire certain styles, but equally shied away from actually wearing some she admired, and by a process of elimination we came up with a style she wanted, and the fabric was bought in July (I had a toile made in June).   Her taste is muted, and it was decided a one colour dress, a pure purple, and Donna wanted an opening on the front which was so fiddly to get even!

I drew up some embroideries, as Donna doesn’t like celtic knotwork, and I naively thought I could do it in free-motion embroidery.  I am using the word naive loosely as in truth, I had never done free-motion embroidery as such (I was going to hand embroider originally but all the dresses are machine done now).

So after doing the drawings, I digitised one (another story) and emailed it to a friend far away who has an industrial embroidery machine…… and then I saw how the hand drawn and the machine lines don’t work so well together, my hand drawn ‘smooth’ curves, became rather scratchy looking, I retraced, but it was still slightly off so it was back to the beginning.  I really could not figure it out, and seemingly some dressmakers send the pieces off for embroidery and then make the dress, but I didn’t even know how you would approach this, and who to send it to, and its now mid-September so I started looking at home embroidery machines.  This is the type of desperate aunt I am!

I ordered a machine in October, and  I got to start on the machine 3rd November and had roughly 8 days of sewing and embroidering (I work part time) to the 14th.  the first few evenings I went through the machine stitches and got a feel for the machine, and from then on it was ‘dress dress dress’, and the work room re organised to have a second table for cutting and second sewing machine, as well as the embroidery machine on the main table!

Day 1 – Samples of patterns stitched out
Day 2 – More samples, and 1 skirt panel embroidered (later changed)
Day 3 – Front bodice embroidered and began running out of thread, sourced thread and ordered from Dublin to be posted down.
Day 4 – Back bodice embroidered  – but ran out of thread midway (so had to be ditched) cut  linings, and prepped sleeves
Day 5 – Back bodice  and sleeves embroidered
Day 6 – Basted linings, bodice sewn, 1 new skirt panel embroidered
Day 7 – 2nd skirt panel embroidered, net skirt made. basted skirt to dress

making an irish dance dress

The embroidery takes the longest time, after ‘setting up’ each skirt panels took about 4 hours each, and I also found out that it was better to have a more generous cut to each piece to keep the grains even while hooping.  I downloaded some digitised swirls and joined some to make up the design.  The brath design is also downloaded from urban threads. The embroidery machine is electronic which took some adjusting to, and I had a rather steep learning curve overall.

My sister and niece arrived for the fitting the following evening after work, and I sewed that evening and next morning, fixing the skirt, taking in the bodice (my niece is 12 so her measurements are changing fast!) adding more to the tutu underskirt, drafting and adding collar so they could leave the following day with the nearly finished dress to bring back as the ‘bling’ had to be bought and the dance teacher to see the dress, and we decided I would go up in a fortnight to help sew the bling.

The dance teacher liked the dress, and suggested HUGE stones to the front.  We had decided on lattices earlier on so my sister made a start on hand sewing that and by the time I arrived 2 weeks later, she had that done, and I started hemming the dress correctly (I had it tacked), and fixing the tutu (net underskirt) and we had Donna walking, hopping, dancing, to make sure the dress was moving correctly.

The large stones were glued in place then sewn, they are quite amazing as they are crystal so really catch the light.  My sister blinged the ‘brath’ (back cream panel which is held on with poppers) and its stunning as it has fushia and AB (Aurelia Borealis) crystals so it really pops (seriously, its like fairy lights), and then we put a small amount in the neck embroidery, as well as the sleeves, I can only take credit for the neck and sleeve placement and have now decided Eithne has a flair for the bling (I  am rather conservative I have now found out).

So…… its now done-ish, the tutu/underskirt needs an adjustment (extra layers) but that will be done after Christmas.  My niece is very happy with the dress and the dress was ready for the feis and she danced very well in it – and I am thinking of her next dress already!

the details

the dress took about 2 metres of duchese satin (I bought 3 metres, and had to cut an extra back panel and skirt panel), .25m cream gold satin for brath -the satin was so forgiving – only one tiny thread pull after countless rushed pinning and resewing.
the tutu (net underskirt) – 2 m of purple plain net, and 1.5m of shiny net although I now think it should have another layer which would be another .25 or .5 metre
the bodice lining – white handkerchief linen remnant from TWI
the pattern – 1960s ice-skating pattern – bodice used and adapted, sleeves,collar, and skirt own draft.

the machine

Few shops in Ireland sell embroidery machines, and getting to view one was a bother.  I went up to a shop in Dublin (and had phoned ahead) and they could only show me the machine but not demonstrate it (less said about that the better).  I bought my machine over the phone after talking to the Singer shop in Waterford, and although I wasn’t able to visit the shop (v far away), they sell a good enough variety of brands for John (owner) to go though the pros and cons (and at this stage had watched shedloads on youtube).

Topaz 25, its probably the more basic Husqvarna embroidery, but it also had the biggest available hoop (280x150mm) in my budget.  I was able to join motifs to get a larger spread (ie front bodice), I still don’t fancy my chances on doing a fully aligned border. It is also a sewing machine, and the only thing I didn’t like sewing on it were darts.  There is a baste stitch on it which is a dream (which I used a lot, both to fix dress before fitting, and also to attach stabilizer pieces to the dress).  My Singer Excelle has not been put to one side though as I well prefer it for tailoring.

 the verdict……..

It was as well in ways it was left as late as my nieces measurements changed a lot from June to September.  I am glad now I got an embroidery machine as its leading me to some other ideas and will expand my sewing.  At the time I felt a bit crazy buying it, but as some extra money came my way in September I justified it that way, that, future dance dresses and having a happy niece.

Donna got two sashes* in ‘the big feis’ – (as well as other trophys in ard grad), when the ‘sash’ awards are presented its a full on fanfare affair and at the end the competitors all have to put their cups in the air – and heres a photo of one!

* I am not very au-fait with the process but my sister explains it as similar to premier league, first division, second division etc in football, and that dancers start off as bun-grad (beginners/third division) and progress up to mean grad to ard grad(high grade/first division) and there is a process which I am not sure of which allows you to dance in the championship dance (premier division), which Donna is beginning to qualify for and if you place in these you get sashes……………

grey jumper #2

wool sweater remake

I got a gorgeous grey merino men’s jumper a few weeks ago.  Its a large mans jumper, and a great shade of grey.  The crochet sweater I am making for my grey wrap skirt is still being hooked (I am on the fourth restart ….. this better be the last version), so I thought I would make something from this.

I had a few thoughts in my head,
– a wrap close cardigan with a length of satin ribbon as trim
– a cropped sweater, 3/4 sleeve with boat neck
– a regular cardigan

but decided on copying an item from my wardrobe.  I copied a pattern from a thrifted fine knit I got some years ago.  Its probably a ‘neither here nor there’ sweater, but its a good layering piece (its cashmere ), easy colour and gets worn quiet a bit.

sweater remake

I laid the sweater out, and traced, folding over the main sweater trace and cutting to make sure each side was even.  In the remake I had to do a few strips to make the sleeve width, but it was worth it as I was able to do a generous box pleat at the ‘cuff’ of sleeve (the pleats in the thrifted sweater are in different locations and are knitted into a cuff).  I would have liked (and am thinking of trying this pattern again) to give a bit more weight to the collar by doubling up the fabric (rather than using a strip of fabric and hemming it).

sweater remake

The sweater has a nice shape, its got a dropped shoulder, and some shaping at the waist – I kept the ribbed band in the cut for hem and its perfect.  I am glad I put the one large pleat in the sleeve as it gives a bit of ‘interest’ and the pleats in the original are a bit puffy.  The sweater is a quick sew, and works well with jeans and looks fine with skirt, and I am sure will work with the grey wool trousers if I get to remake them soon (or at least this year), and wears with the poncho too!.  photo below is a bit dull – but only one taken so far.



a scarf to a poncho to a shrug to a shawl

I made a poncho shrug shawl for my sister some time back and I love it.  The colour wasn’t quite right for me, but it was so perfect for her.  I had made an unbuttoned version some time previous to that and I was going to remake it but still have to get around to it, as its a lot of crochet…… which was a pity, as all summer it would have been the perfect piece as our weather never got really warm.

I did remember I had a long scarf got some years back (2008) which was packed away with the winter wools so as I unpacked some sweaters and put away some summer clothes, there it was…….

scarf to poncho remake - remake a scarf

This scarf measures about 180 x 70cm approx and its a viscose mix.     I always like this colour.  The scarf seems to curl in on itself, and it was also a bit long, it was handy for evenings but rarely worn.  

The measurements of the crocheted ‘pillar to post’ I made for my sister, were 150cm x 60cm, so I cut the scarf  to 155 cm and put some iron-on lightweight vilene strips along the hems at each end, and hand stitched each hem.  This also seems to have stopped the ‘curling’ and now the hem sits flat.

Sewing the button-holes was a nightmare.  I knew I would be placing 6 button holes along approx 30cm on each end (diagram below not to scale but shows the placement), and the buttonholes would be opposite.  

I wasnt sure how I would make the buttonholes.  My machine buttonhole tests were a disaster, and I had more success sewing through paper each side, but this was still distinctly dodgy, so in the end, I hand stitched them.  In truth, the are a bit lumpy, and perhaps its as well that I now use reading glasses as in practice I don’t notice them (and now they are done, I don’t inspect them either!).  The buttons came from the button jar, one set of 6 is from an old suit I have to remake, and the other from a coat from last year.  If it was a white or cream scarf, then various multi-coloured buttons could have been good fun.  This poncho has been worn twice as much since I made it a few weeks ago, than its whole life time as a scarf. 

scarf to poncho remake - remake a scarf

and the only non blurry photo of me wearing it (better try and get a better one)

Brother Jones and Advance PJs

One of the must makes for me this summer were pyjamas – all my pyjamas were a sorry state of worn out leggings and tee shirts, so I ran up a shibori pair and two of advance 8148. 

advance 8148 pyjamas from bedlinen

The advance pyjamas looked particularly handy as there is no button up jacket, and as it turned out, I didn’t need to bother with the 2 buttons recommended.  One handy thing about making pyjamas is I took as many shortcuts and slapdash as I felt under no obligation for a particular finish!  My grading of the pattern was a bit off, and I never lowered the darts enough and didnt lower the pocket at all! I never noticed the pocket oversight till the end (doh!).  The first pair were made from an old sheet, and I thought the taupe colour sophisticated, but as pyjamas it looks a bit more institutional – I probably should have trimmed it, but …… that didn’t happen.  The main fiddly part of the pattern was the collar, which wasn’t really that fiddly just something I never made before.  Feeling incredibly organised having matching pyjamas!

advance 8148 pyjamas from bedlinen

The second pair are not yet finished.  They are made from some red linen scraps and ikea pillowcases.  The pillowcases were probably donated to the charity shop as they were so badly made and could not be ironed flat the weave/cut was so off, which was fixed when they were opened up.  I decided to make them up on the Brother Jones machine which I finally got repaired. 

advance 8148 pyjamas from bedlinen

I got this machine from a friend.  It was left behind in the house they bought some years back.  Since then, it was stored in the attic, and it never had a cover.  When she asked did I want it, I said yes.  It was a case of ‘speak now think later’  as I didn’t know if it worked and had forgot about repair costs and I have never lifted a machine as heavy as this one.  When I got it home, I cleaned it and checked it.  It kinda worked but I didn’t use it as there could be a lot of gunk in the motor and I didn’t want to damage it.  I got it repaired, and it goes like a charm.  I figure it was a home workers machine, and it seems to have been repaired over the years and pieces replaced – namely the plate the presser foot sits on!  Unfortunately the plate will only allow a straight stitch (the hole under the presser foot is too small for zig zag) even though the machine can do zig zag.  

What I love love love about the machine is that the feed dogs are adjustable (my singer can really clamp the fabric), and the presser foot pressure is adjustable.  It has a side loading bobbin which is fine but not a favourite as I think they are fiddly and you can never see how much bobbin thread is left.  However, I can totally overlook this as the machine sews like a dream.  

There were a few issues of seam puckering at the start but it could have been my threading, and I have not had the same issue since but notice the thread can stray here and there so I am keeping an eye on it.  (it seems to come out of the guard easily….). Its hard to find a manual for these as there is no serial number or model number as with the Singer, so I don’t know if there is any feature I am missing.

Aimee at the wrongdoll  has this machine, and she made the most amazing denim skirt with fabulous top-stitching , so if I can achieve anything near that standard, I will be doing well indeed!

Its all sew pants – cigarette pants, trews, ankle grazers…………..

Trousers are something I find easier to buy off the rack, I find making trousers a pain and fitting issues too fiddly so buying off the rack and taking the waist in often seems easier (my waist is two sizes smaller than hip).  Making tops, skirts, dresses and coats are what I prefer, and yet I wear jeans more than skirts on average due to practicality.  

Part of my sewing mission has become to make a handmade wardrobe and now I needed to make some trousers!  I started a pair last month, and based it on a butterick pattern I had done a toile for last year.  I cut the trousers from a linen pair, but the weave was tighter, and the fit was awful.  In part its a vanity issue, as I was in part relying on the ease allowed in a pattern rather than just using my brain and a full set of exact current measurements (seriously, there are times when I have worked from an old set of measurements thinking that these measurements still apply…..dream on……).

So I figured I would take a break from them, and in the meantime, I found these jeans (stretch fabric and a size too big) in the charity shop and also in the colour I needed, so I figured I would do this one from scratch.

recut refashion jeans

I drafted a Jeans block with current exact measurements, and laid it over the Butterick 2704  to combine the two.   (I love the high waisted fit from waist to high hip fit in the Butterick) I used the jeans block for the leg however, when I laid it over the trousers fabric, it just about  fitted  and the leg line of the jeans were in a different direction (coincidentally the same as the Butterick).  So I adapted the leg, and started on a muslin. The fit for the most was great, except now there was too much fabric under the back seat, and I was relying on partner J for critique, and a make-up mirror as a rear view on the full length mirror.    I tried a ‘fish eye’ dart, but it didn’t improve anything, and even Allyne Bane (sewing guru go-to book) no insights, so I went with taking the excess fabric out in a dart going straight up the middle and it fixed it a lot so I undid the muslin leaving dart in place, and retraced the pattern, then I went ahead with pattern and cut.  

recut refashion jeans

I had to chance a few things when cutting the trousers from the jeans, I left the front pockets of the jeans intact, but sewed them shut as they would be too high up.  The front zip was removed but the stitch marks are still there but not hugely noticable and are in the correct place for a ”zip” (the real zip is to the side which I prefer), so actually look fine, and I removed the back jeans pockets and I later replaced them after sewing the trousers.   The stretch fabric gave a generous fit so I took the side seams in about 1cm more and got a smoother fit again, the photo below is before the trousers were taken in. The fit before (mirror photo) is a nicer trouser fit (the left leg is the unaltered, the right leg is half taken in…), but the fit after taking them in, seemed to suit a jeans fit more 

recut refashion jeans

 I am so very happy and the trousers were worn straight away (which is always a good sign) and I finally have a proper trouser block sorted now – which is just as well as I have a pair of wool trousers to re-cut this Autumn!  The simplicity top still needs to have the tucks adjusted at the waist by taking them up one inch which I knew needed to be done, but really know now after seeing the photos! (the outfit got its first ‘outing’ in these photos, and after a 90 minute drive and 5 hours of watching irish dancing, the photos were taken ………….. ) 

recut refashion jeans

While this was going on,   I have repaired my favourite jeans with sashiko mending (thanks to seeing it done by Karen, at RUDE) and its brilliant, I love the integrity of these repairs, its not trying to hide it, but makes the repair a thing in itself.  I normally darn on the machine using a zig zag type stitch, but ultimately it doesn’t work that well with the stretch denim, I think it stresses the fabric more, so this time, I ironed black woven vilene (all I had) on the inside, stretching the jeans a little as I pressed, so the vilene had a wrinkle (deliberate) to accommodate the stretch.   I then did some running stitch with button thread, but then started a type of cross stitch.  What I did was a bit crude, but I love it.  I really like the honesty of the hand stitch and its also a lot more sympathetic to the denim than the machine darn (I think) and  its stronger as it moves with the fabric it a more sympathetic way.  There are some gorgeous examples on pinterest, very inspiring! 

red skirt – made from a swatch, a scrap, and santa trousers

Kathy’s swatches are never far from my mind…………well they are in plain sight all the time in the workroom, and I wanted to try a skirt with the embroidered linen pieces ( as in February’s skort, which did not turn out as well as I had hoped due to the differing fabric weights and is most probably heading to become a cushion if I ever get started on the domestic sewing.) The embroidered swatch has a lot of weight and stiffness in it.  

skirt from a swatch

The polyester crepe trousers are not really santa trousers, but as I got them in the charity shop on a euro rail a week before Christmas, all I could think when I saw them was Santa pants.  The fit of them and cut is lovely, but I think the colour as trousers could be a challenge for some, me included.  The weight of the fabric is good and seems to fall well so I figured it should work with the linen.  The trousers had a strong crease, and I ironed/pressed it flat using a 50:50 vinegar water spitz.

The ever versatile vogue pattern 7776 was brought out again – the back panels were cut from the back of trousers (pattern placed ‘up side down’ so side flare of skirt was going towards the crotch.  I had to make an educated guess on the grain as the crepe was not going to rip correctly, so I chalked a line and laid the centre back line on this.

I sewed the front panels together before cutting the front as I wanted the front darts to be in the crepe, not the linen piece.  The front darts panel was cut from trouser end piece, and cut on the ‘cross grain’. I thought the crepe and linen mix was a bit flat, so I had a scrap of embroidered raw silk I put at the end.  I had toyed with including it on the back skirt but didn’t,  I pinned some across, and it seemed to be the same difference whether I did or not, so I used it to face the hem on the back of the skirt instead.  I put the skirt together to make sure it hung correctly, and then I top stitched, added zip, hemmed, and then made the facing and lining attached.    The lining is from another skirt.  Whenever I take pieces apart, the linings are put into a bag and I can take them as I need them, and the left over reds….. they will make a handy addition to the planned patchwork!

Overall, the skirt has turned out perfect, the back hem is basted and I will let it hang for a few days.  The weather here is still very cold so it will not get out for a few weeks yet!

the best laid plans – future projects and cashmere sweater.

at the beginning of the year, I went through all the fabrics,/stash, and acquired charity shop buys and I made a plan to try and get through them.  Stash is about 12 x  half, 1 and 2 metre lots with 1 x 3 metre piece.  I divided everything by colour and then drew up some’ little ladies’ and had a plan for each month pretty much until August, and beyond.

For the most part this has been helpful to keep me focused and I can still update each month if any better options come to mind.  For all the remakes I have been doing – 50% have been trouble free and straightforward, and the other 50% have had to have a re-think, where there was insufficient fabric for the pattern (happens the most), or the design didn’t look right for the fabric.   Of these, most will go according to the new plan – however some do not. and these few are the ones I spend an obscene amount of time trying to make right before they work or I admit defeat…

May is not going to plan, at all, and I am having a week of it at the moment.  Two patterns I tried out on a whim are going a breeze, and one pair of trousers are going decidedly south (so they are being put away for the next while as they are breaking my heart) – and yet the piece I was supposed to be doing was still on the mannequin last Thursday waiting…..

refashion sweater to cardigan

its a pink cashmere sweater that came to a standstill – which is why this post is being posted a few days late…………When I got this sweater, I saw cashmere and the quality felt okay, and the size a little big, it was stained and had a hole in the underarm seam, and I bought it for 4euro.  When I got home, it went straight to the basin.   I am not too squeamish but I was surprised by how grubby this jersey was.   I did Home Ecc/Domestic Science in school, and amongst other things (like cooking sheeps heart…..), in one class we were taught how to wash a wool sweater.  At the time, I thought the nuns were leading me to a life of indenture and servitude and was not very impressed, whereas now I realised the value of these lessons (although I will pass on the sheeps heart!).  After laundering the sweater (and the dash of vinegar in rinse) it came up a treat and the cashmere got back its buttery softness – ah bliss!

I cut it to make a cardigan, trimming very little from the neck, cutting up a centre front, taking about 4 inches from sleeves and hem.  I hand hemmed using an ‘internal’  hand sewn zig zag stitch to keep it flat.  the thickness of the cashmere concealed the stitch (which was just as well as the thread is not an exact match.   

refashion sweater to cardigan

My original idea was to crochet and sew on an elaborate trim in orange like a matador jacket, for the neck, front and hem edges and the cuffs – a bit of a grandiose idea, and I even dyed some left over mixed-silk yarn (daft I know) from the poncho last year.  I crocheted a swatch in red and a swatch in orange as I was unsure of the orange, and in the end I didn’t think either would work as  ‘the elaborate border’ so went the more conservative route of a simple trim.  

Also as the yarn was originally 2 shades (and the yarn was made of 2 fingering weights, one linen pale, and one silk which was darker? I had to later separate them and used the darker silk yarn (and a 2.5 hook).  I stitched a blanket stitch on the inside in same colour embroider thread to hold the trim.   The cardigan is trimmed with some rows of single stitch, then one row fillet, and some single stitch.  I added a line of shells to the cuff.  A very simple re-do, but takes a bit longer with a 2.5 hook!


The other piece that fell by the wayside this month is my planned  galatzine coat.  I was going to use some dress linen but think the weight is too light.  I did a toile (the toile was cut from the lining pattern as it was intended on being the lining) from a sheet and put it in the orange dye (its pretty awful and came out a very lurid shade.).  The toile has a lovely fit, but as the entire coat is cut on the bias I will think about it some more, If I interline it, I could lose the quality of the linen, and I wanted a lighter weight summer coat.  I did put a post on we sew retro asking if anyone had made it (no one had) and there was the suggestion of just going for a heavier weight which I am now reluctantly agreeing with….I am thinking of trying a simpler coat with the linen…..

refashion sweater to summer sweater with crochet trim

crochet trim sweater

I got this jumper in a charity shop last year.  I can never resist a fine knit wool, this has some silk and rayon in the mix so its light and warm.  Its also got the style neckline I find odd, its neither a polo, or round neck, but I figured I would ‘road test’ it over the winter and decide its fate.  As its so light, I thought it would make a great ‘transition’ wear sweater (or as I am so cold blooded most probably a summer sweater).  I didn’t over-think it too much, and thought a simple border would work.  I had some double knits in stash, and would have preferred a 4 ply or fingering, but the double knit wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be (and I also need to shrink the basket of half balls of yarn).   I had this ‘nico’ cotton a few shades – dark red, hot pink, cream, and taupe.  Originally I was going to use the dark red and then do the red with taupe, and then figured the taupe on its own could look well.  It co-ordinates perfectly.

upcycle sweater crochet trim

I trimmed the sweater, and cut the sleeves a bit shorter, and cut a neckline.  I was a bit nervous cutting the neckline as I didn’t want to trim too much.  I tacked a hem on all edges and did a blanket stitch edging with matching linen thread (I would have preferred buttonhole thread but the linen thread matched perfectly).  The first line of single crochet was stitched to this.  I did some ‘single crochet together’ on the neckline rows to tightened the neckline a bit and finished the border with a row of picot.  I don’t know if this is too fiddly, but without it seems a bit too plain, and it can be easily undone.  It was relatively quickly done, over two evenings by the tv catching up on recordings (so didn’t feel too much of a slacker).   Really happy with sweater.  Always a good sign when I wear it straight away…………….

fly by…dress – denim jeans to denim dress

I am slowly building up a collection of old denim jeans as I hope in the future to make cushion covers for a sofa (have to make the sofa) for a room (which also has to be ‘made’) in the house (all on this pinterest board).  In the meantime, I thought a summer dress would be good too.

I had fully intended to make a denim dress using this butterick pattern, and in my head it was going to take no time as I had the pattern and lots of denim …..what could possibly go wrong?

Well, it turns out, not all my denims are the same, and whatever about shade, the fabric weights would have to be the same for this dress, and enough to get the skirt width and moreover, I wanted to make it in the traditional heavy dark denim – so I would need two pairs of jeans to make the dress, and I didn’t find any matching dark denims.  So plan b was called for….. which was just to run up a fun summer dress

Everyone has their own sewing history, and when I was about 15 I started really sewing for myself and it was the total opposite to the sewing I did in school.  My own sewing, was fast fly-by-seat-of-your-pants sewing, a dresses made from old bedsheets and taking in jeans (the original jeggings) – too tight at times and that the seam ripper was used to take them off.   It was also when I started trying my hand making my own patterns (which was a mixture of maths, and freehand cutting).   I remember at the time a relation of mine commenting  that if I wanted to go to fashion college I should learn to sew in matching thread, and while she may have been correct, she was mistaken.  The non-change of thread was my lazy choice and the pattern and trousers were totally made by me and worn by me and I liked them  – they were uniquely mine.  

I do still think that  there is no right way or wrong way to sew anything.  Sewing is just fastening bits together.  There are ways in which the skills of sewing and drafting can be learned in order to execute the concept nearer the vision, but really its just sewing and sewing is creating your own authentic. 

denim upcycle

As I have been doing this blog, I have been enjoying sewing a lot more, and the idea of creating my own handmade wardrobe reminds me of how much I used sew at 16, so that’s why I thought I should try to sew a quick dress for fun, a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants  type sewing, as I think sometimes trying to find the right pattern for the fabric is a bit slow and slightly tedious.  Obviously, I am more cautious about wasting fabric now and I tend to match thread now but I still figured I should try a freehand type cut….so I marked out some measures – and used a sharpie – just to give it the edge!

denin refashion

I marked a bust dart and had narrowest part of dress just below (as in an empire line) and made the hem as long as I could.  I misjudged the armhole (dreadfully), and ended up patching that later.    The back was cut to match the front – except the back skirt was wider as the back legs of jeans were, and the back did not go out as wide on the bodice.  and  I did put some shaping on the centre front seam,(when I put the dress on inside out, pinned at waist and angled out to centre front seam.   (Truth be told, it would have been more efficient to use a block, but I trying to recreate my measure and mark approach from back when – so in effect the photo above is how not to.)

jeans to denim dress remake

I have not put straps on yet, or made pockets but I do see this as either a sundress, or a jumper dress for winter.   The waistband could also make an interesting detail, or the top of the dress and potential pocket could be trimmed with ric-rac, but it may look odd in winter so will defer for a while on that.  There is enough fabric for both!

It also took about an hour and a half, and I am sure my 16 year old self would have taken far less time (I didn’t do fell seams then).   

and just one more thing

as I said in the post earlier, the more this blog is going on the more I am enjoying sewing.  When I started the blog, I figured that I should just do it rather than overly worry on name and layout and concentrate on content and the rest could settle later.   It is now later!!! As I have to even explain the name rudai deata to friends that can speak irish I have decided on a name change so that should happen in the next few weeks……………..

marfy blouse – uaine on the bias

This poor skirt was sitting on the euro rail last year – I got it as I like green, and its a viscose linen.  As a bias skirt – I wouldn’t be able to wear it, bias enhances any potential curve (I think bias skirts are to be avoided at all costs  for pear-me ……) but as a top it could work out quite well indeed – I probably should have ironed the skirt before photographing as the creases do it no favours.  

refashion skirt to top restyle upcycle

I had come across a few versions of this marfy top online, and I was also curious about their patterns as there was a discussion on them somewhere on fb – so as this pattern was free, it was one way to find out.  I cut for a size 44 and did french seams.  I double checked on seam allowances before cut, and there are none so I added 1.5 all round, and as there would be no hem allowance, I decided to use the frill as the hem (which turned out to be an excellent decision).  

I ironed a crease at the centre front and centre back of skirt pieces to get the true bias, before laying the pattern over each.  In the pattern layout photo, the pattern is laid on the fold and then the side seam hem edge is at the skirt frill join on both, so that worked as my ‘marker’ or notch when I went to sew, I then marked 1.5cm seam allowances at the sides, armholes, and neck.   I put a small facing on the back for the opening, and then sewed the top, gathered the front and then bound the edges.  I decided not to use the neck band as I had seen one version without and liked that, and when I went to cut I may not have had sufficient fabric for the bands (judging from what was left over).  The top was quick enough to run up, and probably quicker for anyone else as I tend to hand hem bindings (my machining of them is rough at best), but in all I think it was 2 or 3 hours (I took apart a dress in-between).

upcycle skirt to top

I am incredibly delighted with the top.  This marfy pattern was easy to use but I don’t know how true this is for their other patterns as they seem to give limited instruction from what I gather on their site – but then again, early vintage patterns don’t give too many clues at the best of times either!.  

refashion skirt to top

Uaine (wen-ya), is an old Irish word for green – it is specific to something being coloured green as opposed to naturally green, and this month is going to be a Uaine month!  In January I did a bit of a rethink of what I was at with all this sewing and cutting, – and I am still without a master plan but now have a modus operandi!!!!  I had to find some focus, as I seemed to have lots of ideas, and projects started all over the house.  So now I am doing projects by the month and by general colour or theme as when I went through everything it turned out that there is currently enough charity shop buys to see me to the next 5 months of making! (its far too easy when things are 1 and 2 euro)  So I divided them into colour and drew up some plans for each, and also catalogued my small stash, so now I am only working a month at a time to stop me flitting from project to project, and have a bag with the next 4, but no more…………….