PR Sewing Bee Challenge #2: Upcycled Men’s Buttondown Shirts

I was lucky enough to pass to the next round of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee after I made my rosette skirt. Here’s the second challenge we received Monday morning:

The Project
Using Men’s Button-down Shirt(s), sew a garment for an adult.  We are keeping this round very open so you can explore your creative side and show us the possibilities. A photo of the original shirt or shirts will be one of the required photos, so be sure to take a photo before cutting apart.

You can use any pattern you like: commercial, free or self-drafted. Lining fabric (if needed) may be bought or used from stash. Any trims, zippers, buttons, elastics, cords may be purchased or used from stash. You can also use purchased accessories like belts, scarves, jewelry, shoes, bags to style your final garment. 

Please note that we need at least three photos for this round. At least one photo on a live model is recommended but not required.

1. Fabric of the original shirt(s) should be woven; embellishments may be any type of fabric.
2. Garment should be for adults.
3. Garment can be separates or a single piece which can be worn on its own.
4. Three photos are required. At-least one photo must be a photo of the shirt(s) before they are cut .
5. 1 or more shirts may be used (up to 5 any size). 
6. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 PM EST November 16th, 2014. 
7. Links to blogs are NOT allowed. Additional photos hosted on Flickr or similar websites ARE allowed.

Because I didn’t read the instructions carefully last time and had an issue with my skirt hem, I made sure to read these instructions were care. To me, the instructions indicated that you needed to make a full outfit, since if you made only 1 item (example a blouse) it wouldn’t adhere to rule #3 above. A blouse can’t be worn on its own without a bottom, right? Since I thought it was relatively clear, I didn’t bring it up in the challenge forum until I saw individual items popping up in the review gallery. Then it was clarified that it could be a top OR bottom OR dress OR whatever. Just a single garment. Anyway, I’m not writing this to complain (I didn’t even mention it in my submitted review) just to say that is why I made two garments instead of focusing on one with more detail.

I went through my process in more detail on Pattern Review, but just wanted to show my finished results here as well. These are my original shirts purchased from Marshalls: Original Shirts

And here is my finished outfit: PR Contest Outfit 2 PR Contest 2 OutfitSo I really love both pieces separately, although I don’t know whether I love them together. It looked much better in my mind this past week (isn’t that the truth!).

I’ll end up wearing the white blouse with jeans. I absolutely love how this turned out! It will fit extremely well into my daily wardrobe and has my favorite color bluePR White BlouseI’m especially happy with how it turned out given I didn’t use a pattern for most of the top! I made most of it just draping it on my dress form and hoping for the best. I did use a pattern for the sleeve caps because I have never drafted one and they scare me!
PR White Blouse 2 The collar of my new shirt is the collar stand from the purchased striped shirt. The cuffs were also harvested from the striped shirt.White Striped Blouse CollageI’m not much of a skirt person but I’m also happy with how the skirt came out. I used the red plaid shirt as accenting on the pockets and zipper.

And I have to say, I’m very happy with the fit! I didn’t make a muslin and this came out nearly perfectly! The pattern is this Burda skirt.
Corduroy Skirt CollageSo there you have it – a complete outfit upcycled from men’s button-up shirts! They made not have the most razzle-dazzle but both pieces are wearable and I count that as a win!

Waffle Patterns Reversible Hooded Vest

Two years ago I had to throw away my first black North Face puffy vest. I loved that thing SO MUCH. There were holes all over the place and feathers spilling out that I tried to remedy with packing tape! College thinking at it’s best :) Of course, it wasn’t until after I got rid of it that I realized how much I wore it. Outdoor vests are great. They keep you warm without being TOO warm, and your arms still have a full range of motion.

So, naturally, I decided to make one! I searched many many pattern companies and decided upon the Dropje Hooded Vest from Waffle Patterns. It had everything I was looking for, a hood, zipper and pockets. Done deal.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 3.48.57 PM

Waffle Patterns are layered PDFs, so that you can print out the pattern with ONLY the size you plan to make or grade between. I printed out 38 & 40, although I made a straight size 38.  Yuki has included both the seam lines and the cutting lines in her patterns, which is great for alterations, but I found I really needed to pay attention so I didn’t cut off my seam allowances!

A layered PDF with ALL sizes – can you imagine cutting out your pattern with all those lines?!

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.35.00 AM

After selecting the sizes I wanted to print – much better!Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 11.35.10 AMThen I decided to make the vest reversible. Primarily because I had a few vest ideas swimming around in my head and I thought, why not make both?!

So I used the front, back, side, and hood pieces to construct two separate vests. The solid gray is a sweatshirt fleece from Girl Charlee and the gray/white stripe is a wool/acrylic blend from the local Sewfisticated in Cambridge, MA. I used purchased black bias tape for  the edges.Dropje Vest_Reversible

The gray side has pockets as designed in the seam between the front and side piece. Since there is a side piece, the pockets are moved slightly forward compared to a typical side seam and are very accessible (much better than the side seams I put in my Minoru). I bound the pocket opening to give it stability. Dropje Vest_Gray_360

The wool side was a pain to make! The stripes follow the fabric’s bias, which was good because it gave the fabric stability while creating the chevron effect, i.e. I was able to cut the fabric on the grain. However, it was a mental puzzle to cut out the pieces so they made the chevron! Luckily the fabric was identical on both sides, because I needed to use both sides of the fabric to get the stripes going in opposite directions. Thank goodness I bought 4 yards of this fabric because I made a ton of mistakes cutting it out.

I hope you can see the chevron effect in the pictures. It is very subtle, but noticeable, in real life and unfortunately it gets a little lost in pictures.

My only regret is that I didn’t interface the entire wool side. The fabric isn’t tightly woven and I’m afraid it is going to get misshapen over time. I realized this after I started construction and I ended up interfacing just the zipper area, pockets, and the waistband.Dropje Vest_Striped_360

Because I wanted the chevron effect all around the vest, I had to cut out the back, waistband, and hood pieces as two and sew them together. I really like the effect though – how cool is the top of the hood?!Dropje Vest_Hood_Pocket_Details

Speaking of the hood, I haven’t seen one shaped like this before. The sides make a tube traveling up from the collar and then there is a piece for the top. It cups my head really well though! Much better than the hood of my minoru which falls down often.

I wanted to do something different for the wool pockets. These are patched on and the opening is bound primarily for design purposes. The wool is interfacing and lined with a stable black crepe I had in my stash.

Here is how I put together the two reversible sides. Note: This method only works because I knew I was going to bind the edges of the hood and armholes.

After both sides were constructed, I attached them together by means of a common waistband since I wanted the wool to be visible on both sides.


Then I basted the zipper onto the wool side and checked the placement. Finally I folded the right sides together, thus encasing the zipper, basted, and then sewed all layers together. I trimmed the edges and flipped it right-side out. IMG_1761Before binding together the hood, I reached into the vest and basted together the seam allowances of the waistband and at the neckline so make sure the two sides stayed together during ‘flipping’. After doing the binding, it was done! I totally made up this method on the fly – I’m happy it worked out :)

I’m really happy with how it turned out! The pattern was great and I’m excited to use Waffle Patterns again (I REALLY want to make this COAT). In terms of Indie pattern companies, they offer something unique and different that I haven’t seen before…which is a good business model :)   I’m also looking very eagerly at the Snowball dress and Caramel jacket (Yuki, the designer, is inspiring with plaids!).

Note: This is all my own opinion. I searched out and bought this pattern on my own with no outside influence.
Dropje Reversible Vest FrontDropje Reversible Vest BackDropje Reversible Vest Side
Happy November!




Rosette Skirt Update

Thank you everyone for your suggestions on how to deal with the hem on my silver rosette skirt! Even though I didn’t want to hem it, upon looking more closely at the hem I noticed that though the mesh won’t ravel, the rosettes (which are just material basted onto the mesh) were falling off. So I accepted the fact that I really did need to hem the skirt if I wanted it to last for multiple Christmases.DSC_0230While reading through the comments at work yesterday, I decided that trying to find/make bias tape was going to be the right solution. But when I got home I forgot just how much those rosettes stick out….nearly 1/2″!


Plus, after searching through my stash I couldn’t find any lightweight fabric that matched the color of the rosette fabric. And I was stupid enough to throw away all the scraps from the lining. Doh! (I’ve been watching The Simpsons a lot lately :)

So I used extra rosette fabric to play around with hem options. I tried just folding up and stitching but I didn’t like the effect. IMO, it made the hem look to be raveling even MORE than before because the ‘petals’ were flailing all over the place.

I stared at the fabric for a while and noticed that the rosettes were basted on linearly. On the final skirt, the rosettes are sewn on horizontally. This meant I could cut out a row of rosettes on the spare fabric without any risk of them falling off. I decided to try pinning this around the hem. I had considered including a row of flowers on the waistband before but decided it would be too juvenile. I wasn’t sure I liked the effect of the rosettes along the hem, it seemed to add an extra ruffle, but I reasoned this was probably because they were just pinned on and not sewn on more tightly.

So I hand sewed a short pieces of flowers to the bottom of the hem. I made sure to sew them on fairly tight, I didn’t want the hem to be along an inch thick!

And I liked the effect – so I ran with it and extended the rosettes along the rest of the hem. It blends in pretty well, which was one of my worries. Blends in so well that I can barely see it in the pictures! (Below is a new picture with the finished hem)


However, I still didn’t have a proper hem!! So I went back and folded under the original hem and hand-stitched it in place. It’s masked by the row of flowers so it doesn’t matter if it looks terrible!

To be honest to the competition, I took new a few new pictures in the updated skirt. In the Northern Hemisphere, we’re suffering from the end of Daylight Savings Time and shorter days in general, which makes taking pictures outside nearly impossible if you work during the day. But, I think I have found a new place to take good pics in the house! Yahoo!Rosette Skirt HangingNow I’m going to go finish my skirt submission!



PR Sewing Bee Challenge #1: A-line Skirt

I woke up early on Saturday morning excited for the trip I’d planned to Fabric Place Basement to pick up some supplies to finish a few WIPs. During my morning ritual of drinking coffee and checking e-mail, I found Deepika’s email about the first challenge for the PR Surprise Bee which I had forgotten about. Naturally, I stopped what I was doing to read it immediately:

The Project

Sew an A-Line Skirt with Lining. An A-line skirt is a skirt that is fitted at the hips and gradually widens towards the hem, giving the impression of the shape of a capital letter A. source:

Your finished skirt should have all of these components
1. Zipper
2. Lining 
3. Button/hook or any other closure
4. Waistband
5. Hem

Hmmm, this was going to be hard. If you’ve followed my blog at all, you should know I’m not a fan of skirts. Dresses? Sure. But skirts? Especially A-line skirts? No. Not really.

I was interested in other’s opinions so I read the contest discussion forum. I was particularly taken by this comment from PR member JET:Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 12.18.58 PM

What great points! So I kept this in the back of my mind and went to Pinterest to look for inspiration and create a board (Here’s my board).  I was starting to narrow in on a plaid skirt but decided to go to my favorite website for inspiration, Anthropologie. I knew exactly what I was going to make once I saw this skirt4120225294562_066_b3Back in February I bought 6 yards of eggshell rosette fabric from FabricMart, just in case I wanted to use it for the wedding [Rosette fabric can be EXPENSIVE and I got this for just $4.50/yd!]. One of my ideas was the dye the fabric and use it as the skirt for a Jr. Bridesmaid dress, since the ivory color wasn’t my favorite. I even went so far as to buy iDye Poly from Dharma Trading Co. in a bunch of colors. Of course, this plan never happened, so the 6 yards (which take up a TON of space) and the dye have been bundled in a corner ever since.

I like this pink skirt. It’s a little too feminine IMO for everyday wear but it’s still pretty cute. And has a lot of wonderful reviews at Anthropologie suggesting that people think a skirt like this is acceptable for adults to wear.  So, I devised a plan to make a silver a-line rosette skirt to wear for Christmas. And if the skirt turned out horribly, oh well! As JET said above, just relax, have fun, and be creative!

Dyeing the Fabric:

The first task was to dye the fabric. I have never dyed fabric before so I was nervous it either wouldn’t take to the fabric, or that the poly rosettes wouldn’t dye the same color as the mesh underneath.

I had 5 different colored dyes in my stash to choose from. I eliminated pink as an option, because going too pink would quickly make this skirt childish. I eventually settled on silver grey, reasoning that both light silver or a dark silver would look nice for a rosette skirt and put less pressure on me to get the dyeing time right.

First, I filled a stainless steel pot with 1.5 yards of my fabric and water. I did this to (1) pre-wet my fabric and (2) determine the volume displaced from my fabric .

DSC_0140I removed my fabric (leaving the water) and put the pot on the stove over high heat. Then I added the dye packet and dye intensifier, stirring until completely dissolved.

DSC_0144Time to add the main ingredient!

DSC_0149I was surprised how fast the color set!
DSC_0153Mixing up my stew!

DSC_0158I only left the fabric in the dye for 20 minutes and the water never reached a boil/simmer. Then I dumped out the liquid and rinsed the fabric twice with cold water.

DSC_0160Finally, I washed the fabric twice and it was done! I put it on the ground to take a ‘Before & After’ photo and Ted jumped in right away. He loves snuggling in this fabric!


Cutting & Sewing the Skirt:

Construction was very straightforward, nothing to add really. I purchased a silver poly lining fabric at Fabric Place Basement before I dyed the rosette fabric and it’s nearly identical!

DSC_0182The waistband is made from the lining fabric. I sewed silver grosgrain ribbon on top and left an overhang past the zipper and attached a hook. 

 Finished Product:

I actually like it! I went forward with this project knowing I’d either really like the finished product or I’d think it was a joke. DSC_0208

I think the silver color hides the the fact that this is rosette fabric, mostly commonly used for things like tablecloths or baby pictures. DSC_0209 DSC_0211


The only thing I’m worried about is the hem. You’ll see above that one of the necessary skirt components for the competition is a hem. However, given the nature of my fabric (lots of volume and doesn’t ravel), I think hemming the exterior fabric is going to ruin the drape, volume, and feel of the skirt. And honestly, I have no intention of hemming it. I read on the forum that a hem is mandatory…so if I’m out because of this, I think I can accept that. I hemmed the lining but made a conscious decision to leave the rosette fabric alone. It’s not like I didn’t hem because I ran out of time! Actually, I did try to trim the hem a la lace but it looked pretty awful (see that weird indent in the picture below??)

DSC_0227I haven’t submitted by skirt on Pattern Review yet and posted here to get opinions on the hem issue. Do you think I need to hem it in order to qualify?? Or should I take a risk and leave it??