my (4 hour) 90 minute shirt {sewing projects}

What do you get for your craft-obsessed wife when mother’s day comes around and you need to pick out a gift? Well, if you know her well you would get her a serger. And Ben does, and he did! I was so ridiculously excited when I opened it up because 1. I have been wanting a serger for months now and 2. I had no idea he was getting me one. I wouldn’t think he would want to encourage my frantic crafting behaviors 🙂 But he did get me one and it is one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten (actually he’s on a streak of super awesome presents, the watch he got me for Christmas is another “can’t live without” favorite gift)

I took it out for a test drive yesterday and what better to start with than a first attempt at the 90 minute shirt. I mostly make things for Amelia (with myself coming in second) but it’s hard to find patterns or ideas of things to sew for boys. This seemed like a perfect first serger project for me to start with.

I ended up taking close to four (yes 4) hours to finish the shirt, not even counting the freezer paper stenciling but it’s really all my fault. I didn’t pay close enough attention to the shape of the pattern pieces in the tutorial so I didn’t realize (until it was too late) that the neckline/armhole portion of mine was all wrong. I’m pretty sure that the issues started from me using a super teeny tiny onesie to cut up, instead of one that was closer to their size (since they don’t really have many onesies in their size anymore and I didn’t want to dismantle any of them that were still wearable). I did a pretty rotten job of sizing up the pattern so the pieces were just all wrong.

I was actually really worried about sewing on the knit and learning to use the serger, but those turned out to be the easy parts. As always the tutorial was very well written and illustrated and easy to follow. I was zipping right along on track to finish in just around 2 hours (not bad for a first attempt) when I got to the part where you pin the sleeve in to the body/neck. I did all the pinning, humming as I worked, and excited to flip it right side out to admire the effect of the almost finished shirt. Except when I flipped mine right side out it wasn’t a nice almost finished shirt, it was a shirt without a neck hole (certainly not going to work for Paul because he does indeed have a neck). You see my interpretation of the neck hole and sleeve holes were all wrong and way too long, meaning that when I wrapped the sleeves they overlapped (as envelope necks should) but they overlapped way TOO much and in fact SO much that the back and front covered each other entirely. Oops.

I realized pretty quickly that it was going to be a bit of a disaster to try to unstitch the neck that I’d already made so I called it a loss and just unpinned the sleeves and started cutting the entire neck line off, lowering it by a good few inches. I would snip, re-pin and check to see if it looked right. I had to do it a couple of times before I was pretty sure it was a suitable neck line. Unfortunately in making the neck line lower I also had to bring the shoulder line in (since there wasn’t any more fabric out to the sides) so I knew it was going to do some weird things to the sleeves but it was kind of too late to fix. I then made up all new pieces of ribbed edging for the neck hole and sewed it on (hey, more serger practice, right?) and finished up the shirt. It ended up a little funny looking (when it’s not on the arms stick out straight to the side due to the weird shoulder seams) and a bit like a mini muscle shirt (oops) but I still think it’s cute and good enough for a first try.

I also knew that I wanted to decorate it somehow, so I added on a freezer paper stencil of the word “pwease” since it is, after all, every other word out of Paul’s mouth.

I think it actually fits him pretty well (other than the weird muscle man sleeves) and since it’s made from an old one of Ben’s shirts (with one of my old tank tops for ribbing) I know it’s not going to shrink which is nice. Paul seems to like it too. He really wanted to put it on as soon as he saw it

And one more funny storry/picture. I really wanted to take a few pictures of him in one of our dining room chairs in the shirt up against a white wall just to show off the shirt… but he immediately got squirmy (notice there aren’t any of him just sitting straight on) so I had to take him down… but he wanted to get back up and was really sad that I wouldn’t let him (because he almost fell off it a few times already) so I decided to cheer him up with some bubbles. He was REALLY loving the bubbles, he was actually getting hysterical laughing at the dog eating them in the air. So hysterical he started drooling on his shirt and tearing up from laughing so hard (notice the drool on his shirt?) He was getting SO riled up in fact that I thought maybe we needed to put down the bubbles. But Paul didn’t agree. He wanted more bubbles. Pweeeeaaaaaaasssssseeeee?! And gave me this face. We had lunch instead 🙂

my (4 hour) 90 minute shirt {sewing projects}

men’s shirt to women’s dress refashion {sewing projects}

I have been following a LOT of crafty blogs lately and one thing that I keep seeing over and over is a shirt-turned-dress makeover for little girls. A men’s dress shirt turned into a little girl’s dress. I think there are about a hundred million of them out there. I definitely want to make one for Amelia so I asked Ben if he had any extra shirts lying around that he didn’t wear for one reason or another. He dug around in his closet and came up with two candidates. Both were gigantic (the reason he didn’t wear them is that they were way too big) which means there was a LOT of fabric. It seemed like a waste to use all of that fabric on just one little bitty dress for Amelia (because come on, she’s tiny and it doesn’t take much fabric to make her a dress). So as I lay in bed, suffering from my crafter’s insomnia, an idea popped into my head – what if I could use those shirts to make dresses… for ME?! I couldn’t sleep and I just kept running over the possibilities in my head. The shirt is big, right? So big it’s almost long enough to be a dress (or tent) while on… surely there must be enough fabric there to make a dress. There just must be, right? And I schemed and tossed and turned and in my imagination the dress started taking shape.

The next night (two nights ago) it was time to start. I had zero plan, zero pattern, but I just started cutting anyway. I knew what I thought the dress should look like and approximately which pieces were going to come from where, and the only way to see if it was going to work was to just try it. I considered taking step by step pictures along the way but Ben and I both agreed that since I’d never tried anything like this before it was probably getting a bit ahead of myself to assume that I would be successful enough to turn it into a tutorial 🙂

My basic idea was to take the whole shirt and scoot it down on my body – basically all the fabric from the shoulders down would be moved down to the bust line to make the top of the dress, which should have added a good three of four inches to the length (right?). I would make a bodice top and then just use all of the rest of the fabric below from the front and back of the shirt to make the skirt, keeping the original hemline. Below that I’d use the sleeves to make ruffles just to add a bit of length. It made sense in my head. Now that I’m typing it out it seems a bit far-fetched 🙂 Here’s the original shirt. Forgive the graininess, horrific lighting and awful color cast.

When I sat down to start sewing I got out a dress that I knew fit me to use as a rough template for how big the bodice should be and I traced around it allowing for a little extra seam allowance. The first problem arose when there wasn’t enough width on the front piece of the shirt to make up half of the bodice (I wanted the buttons from the front to be on the back of the dress). Oops. Hmn. Luckily it turns out that for this particular shirt the back fabric was wider than the front so there was actually enough total but it was a close call. I decided that I’d make the skirt as wide as the fabric would allow and just gather it loosely to attach it to the bodice. The part that I considered to be so clever about this project was that the whole thing could be made entirely snug, close fitting and with no extra seam allowances for zippers or closures since it was already a button-down shirt. I’d just use the original buttons to get the dress on and off. So no elastic waist or other shenanigans for the skirt – just gather and sew, easy peasy. Unfortunately the skirt didn’t end up being as gathered or full as I pictured (once again, the shirt wasn’t *quite* as big as I’d envisioned) but it still worked. It was definitely very very short before I added the ruffles.

After a long night of frantic sewing I had the basic beginnings of the dress… there was definitely wonkiness with the bodice (it didn’t fit properly since the original shirt had two pleats in the back – my front) and I was pretty much out of fabric with no straps yet (and I knew I needed straps to make it a dress I would actually wear) but it was for the most part a dress. Here’s what it looked like at that point

I made a bunch of tweaks to the bodice and actually ended up unstitching the whole top, removing the pleats and resewing the whole thing back together. Now it fits much better. It was kind of weirdly challenging to make a dress that both fits snugly and doesn’t gape on the front (thank you pancake chest) while still leaving enough room in the back not to pull on the buttons. I ended up needing some weird darts that I invented on the side (the whole thing reminded me of an origami project “what if I fold here, what will that look like?”) that sort of broke up the line of the stripes, but at least it improved the fit. I also ended up cheating and using a bit of plain brown cotton as the straps (crossed in the back) and sash for the middle of the dress. Because I was out of the stripes… and I just also think it’s cute 🙂

And voila – two days later… the finished dress!

I always feel horrifically awkward when being photographed (I’m much more comfortable on the other side of the camera) but Ben did his best to make me laugh and not feel like a complete idiot (which is how I felt) I like these ones best

Of course the only time to take the pictures were the 20 minutes or so after he came home from work and before the sun went down, which meant the kids were awake and running around. And not pleased to be left out of the action. First Amelia wanted up, then Paul. And such is life with twin toddlers 🙂

Paul gives it the sniffy face of approval

So there you have it, my very first men’s shirt to women’s dress refashion. I’m quite pleased with it as a first attempt (and yes, oh yes there will be more to come). I’ve actually been thinking about joining the wardrobe refashion pledge – to not buy any new clothing and instead make “new to you” clothing from thrifted goods. I’m at least going to be doing a lot more refashioning in the future, whether or not I can completely give up shopping we shall see. I definitely won’t be going as far as this girl – making a new dress a day for a year (!!) but she’s doing a pretty amazing job. I hope I can be that good at sewing by the time I turn 30 – I’ve got lots of time to practice, right 😉

men’s shirt to women’s dress refashion {sewing projects}

my buttercup bag {sewing projects}

So my dress is coming along… SO close to being done. I guess I could say that it is done, Ben pointed out that it probably would photograph fine in the state that it is right now, but I want to put the finishing touches on before I show it (like fine tuning the bodice fit and adding a hook closure on top)

I didn’t get around to this post yesterday because I was furiously working away at the dress 🙂 So without further ado, my buttercup bag. This is the first bag I’ve ever made from a pattern. I’ve made a lot of bags before, but never following any sort of rules and they’ve always been fairly homemade looking. I figured it was time to follow some step by step instructions to see how you were REALLY supposed to put a bag together, you know, the right steps and techniques to come out with a finished and professional looking product. This one has a magnetic snap closure (ooh fancy) and a bunch of pretty pleats, plus a handy pocket on the inside (just the right size for my cell phone) and full lining. It’s the amazing (and free!) buttercup bag pattern from made by rae (the same lovely blog that provided the pattern for the itty bitty baby dress I made Amelia and Charlotte around 6 or 7 months ago). Overall I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I would make a few changes next time (like how the handle attaches and maybe a flap closure instead of the snap on the inside) but for a first go I think it’s fabulous.

What do you think?

One word of caution – at least in my experience (and maybe it’s just something about my printer/computer setup) the pdf for this pattern is a bit cursed … or possessed … or something along those lines. I had more trouble printing out the pattern than I did sewing the actual purse. First I couldn’t get it to download (I ended up having to right click save it and it took over 10 minutes) and then when I opened it up and tried to print, it would crash my printer (boo). I tested printing a few other pdfs and they all worked fine so I was getting very frustrated. Ben ended up suggesting (such a genius) that I open the pdf in photoshop so it would rasterize (and no longer be said cursed pdf) and print from there. It worked like a charm.

my buttercup bag {sewing projects}

you know you’re reading too many craft blogs when {sewing projects}

You know you’re reading too many crafty sewing blogs when you begin to develop crafter’s insomnia. Symptoms include an inability to fall asleep at night due to excitement over future sewing projects as well as frantic late night “must finish this bag!” frenzies.

Last night I was up until close to midnight (practically an all nighter now that we wake up so early for the kids) finishing up a bag that I was sewing. Even though I should have been exhausted and fallen into a deep and peaceful slumber once it was done, I instead spent the rest of the night tossing and turning in bed, imagining a super amazingly awesome way to turn a shirt into a dress (yes, I am aware that I am super nerdy). Worried that the same fate might befall me twice, I attempted to start making said dress this evening. It’s almost finished and I’m pretty excited at how close to actually wearable it is. I’m still on the fence about whether it qualifies as “real” and “outside the house worthy” but it is at least something resembling an actual garment.

I am also planning on making a blog post about the fabulous bag that I finished last night… but it’s close to midnight and I’m up (again) and deliriously tired. So instead here’s just one sneak peek picture. Link to the tutorial and other stories about it tomorrow…


you know you’re reading too many craft blogs when {sewing projects}

a monkey dress for my monkey {sewing projects}

I have pretty much wanted to make every single project on Dana’s MADE blog ever since I found it. I don’t really have the kind of extra time lying around to sew very much during the week so it’s been slow going but I have made a few and I have to say I love them all. The directions are always so clear and easy to read, and the projects are so cute! My newest endeavor was the “summer vacation dress“. I can’t wait to make every single version of this pattern and deck Amelia out in all cute dresses all the time. The possibilities for alternate versions are overwhelming!

This dress went together much more quickly than I was anticipating, I actually got the entire dress cut, shirred and ready to sew in just one morning, and it was ready to be worn by the time she woke up from her afternoon nap. I had a super cute flowered fabric picked out for this dress but decided to make a “practice round” first out of this monkey fabric since I have boatloads of it lying around. I was not prepared for how cute it was going to be when it was fully assembled, it definitely turned out to be something she’s going to wear often and not just a throwaway test pattern 🙂

It’s the perfect afternoon sewing project AND ridiculously adorable, what more could you ask for?! It’s just right for running, jumping and just general romping about. Look how happy she was to wear it this afternoon!

Yay for cute dresses and for awesome sewing patterns! I’m also super impressed at Dana’s amazing customer service, I emailed her this morning with a (rather silly) question about sizing the dress for Amelia since she’s smaller than the pattern. She emailed me back the very same morning – on a Saturday no less! Three cheers for that! Stay tuned for more sewing projects soon. It’s been a sewing bonanza over here this weekend 🙂

a monkey dress for my monkey {sewing projects}

a from scratch shirt {sewing projects}

First a little back story before you see the pictures and laugh.

We have a crazy dog. He has been known to do things like eating our entire front door welcome mat. He also ate a significant portion of our living room rug in our last house. He is crazy. We left the house one night to go out on a date and left a babysitter downstairs. Apparently the dog was scared of the babysitter – she said that he came down periodically and gave her suspicious looks, and then retreated upstairs. Turns out what he was doing while up in our room was EATING THE CURTAINS. Yes. Eating them. He ate the entire bottom 2 feet or so off of one of the panels. I have no idea how he didn’t end up in the emergency room for that little stunt.

For a long time we just left the curtains alone. We had a lot of projects on our to-do lists and fixing ripped curtains wasn’t the top. A few weeks ago however it finally got to me “We have CHEWED CURTAINS hanging in our bedroom! Enough!” So I made a trip to Ikea and picked up a replacement and we hung it that night. But what to do with the un-chewed portion of the panel we took down? Well some people may have thrown it away but I’m not one to waste 🙂 So I decided it would make an excellent piece of fabric for me to test out my sewing skills. I use the term “skills” loosely.

I decided I would attempt to make a shirt. Here is the final outcome – I always take pictures in this full length mirror, which happens to be in front of the very curtains that this shirt is made from, so I feel a bit like Zach Braff in Garden state in the scene where he matches the wallpaper. So very embarrassing. Ben assures me that taken out of this context I would NOT look like I was wearing curtains. I’m still not entirely convinced.

Since this was the first shirt I’ve ever made entirely without a pattern I didn’t want to get overly ambitious and add anything like buttons or zippers, so it had to be big enough to just slip over my head. That being said I thought it turned out a bit boxy. I tried making a little belt out of the same fabric and using it to cinch in the waist a bit. Ben likes it better without. I’m unsure which is better. Here’s with the belt.

a from scratch shirt {sewing projects}

my first shirt refashion {sewing projects}

This is my first attempt at a “refashion” for an article of clothing for myself. I’ve done one other refashion project but it was taking a t-shirt and making it into a dress for Amelia. It went so-so. The dress was cute but not exactly how I pictured it. I decided that maybe I should start with something easier for myself since, up until this point, I had never successfully sewn an article of clothing that I deemed worth of wearing in public.

The idea was very simple. Take a shirt that I didn’t like anymore (weird sleeves, kind of awkward – what was I thinking when I bought it in the first place?) and transform it into something better and more wearable. Here’s the original.

I hesitated at first before making any cuts to the fabric. Thanks to the wonder of the internet I *knew* or at least believed to be true that I could cut knit fabric and it wouldn’t fray (is it made of MAGIC?! Seriously how is this possible?) but I was still worried that it wouldn’t work for me. I hovered there, scissors in mid air. Should I cut? And then I remembered that this shirt was recovered from my goodwill pile. I was going to give it away. So what’s the worst that could happen? I totally butcher it? And then give it away – like I was planning to do anyway.

So I plunged ahead – snipping first one and then the other sleeve off just below the shoulder seam. And in so doing discovered that there is something totally cathartic in just chopping up an article of clothing that you don’t like. I immediately felt better and more productive. The shirt without the sleeves was an improvement in itself, but I decided to take the fabric I had cut off and make it into some little flowers. Shirts with flowers are all the rage right now, didn’t you know? And every time I see one I think “man that is overpriced, I could definitely make that myself” So what better time than now to try?

Here is the finished product (photographed in much better light than the “before” picture – note to self – do not photograph things after dark in horrendous artificial lighting). I’m quite pleased with it.

I can’t believe I waited so long to try something like this out – it makes me want to run into my closet and pull out any shirt that’s “so-so” and hack it to bits. I have my eye on at least 5 internet tutorials for making cute girly shirts from abandoned large men’s t-shirts so I think I’ll attempt one of those next. Yay for making something you love from something you really couldn’t care less about.

my first shirt refashion {sewing projects}