Whenever I’m working on a costume, I think “this is super cheap. I should share it.” And then it doesn’t quite fit into the tutorial, or it’s a weird tributary of eddying thoughts that strays far away from the main flow of the post. So here’s a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up about obtaining materials on the cheap, that hopefully go beyond your standard “go to the thrift store. Thrift. Good job.”
Recently, I went to a wedding in San Jose. It was a wedding in a nice church, so most of my dresses were either way too casual or way too body conscious. (Of course, then I promptly learned that weddings are a place to put on your tightest, shiniest club uniform and your highest heels, and your most makeup, and look for a mate at the reception. Luckily, I’m not single.) Now, I know supposedly black is bad for a wedding. Why? Because some fashion person said so. Or maybe because of funerals. But if the silhouette isn’t somber, I say black is fine; it’s versatile and classic.
So this dress had a lovely skirt, but it’s all empire-waist and silver, gross, padded-and-tucked top. There’s a way to do this well. Mine looked like I was wearing a fortress out about an inch in front of my actual bust. Maybe the makers were afraid of cannon fire.
Today’s refashion is fairly simple. But I’m posting it anyway because I want to talk about waste.
I actually wrote this post a few days ago, but wanted to keep to my Friday refashion schedule. Serendipitously, I happened across a really neat Freshly Pressed post titled Crafting in Circles that said a lot of things that I think about when crafting. It’s hard to balance domesticity with freedom and creative self-reliance with twee kitcsh, isn’t it? Surprisingly so! And even when I am being self reliant, it’s tempting to just use up my materials in a haphazard manner. Well, they’re salvaged, after all. That means they’re already waste, I’m just reclaiming parts of it.
But how much fabric goes to waste on any given project/refashion? I find that sleeves, necklines, the bottom or top halves of shirts, and hoods often just end up in my scrap pile, too small to really use, too large to trash. But today I got a little bit creative in my thinking, with good results.
This lovely “good luck” pseudo-asian-inspired hoodie is a bit too short in the arms (it belonged to my sister when she was a teenager) and has a big stain on it from an unfortunate incident where a packet of tie-dye leaked in a car trunk.
Zippers: so convenient, yet so break-prone.
I bought a wonderful wool hooded sweater over the summer ($1 at Goodwill, by the way: Take advantage of the seasons!) that I wore all through the early fall. Lovely fawn color, extra-long sleeves, fitted hood. I loved it.
And then the zipper broke. Of course it did. I thought about just replacing the zipper, but ultimately decided to reclaim it into a button-down instead. I did so over Christmas, and have been happy with the result. If you have a similar problem, I hope my process will be helpful to you.
Note 2: I did this project in December, before I cut my hair short. There are a couple of projects that I haven’t posted yet, due to not transferring photos for a long time. So I’ll be switching from short to long hair for some posts.
- A zippered sweat shirt or sweater. It should have at least an extra inch or two of ease; you’ll be overlapping the edges. It will also preferably have a placket, like mine (below); that will look the most natural/intentional.
- Several buttons. I find sturdy flat buttons to be the best choice, but you could try shank buttons if you want, especially if you have a looser sweater
- A pair of scissors
- Moderately heavy to heavy thread that matches your sweater
- Sewing bound buttonholes and buttons
First, remove the zipper. You will probably have two open edges now, where the zipper used to be sandwiched.
Next, put on your hoodie and decide which way you want your shirt to button; left or right? Traditionally, womens’ clothes button on left side, but that’s pretty outdated (one theory is that it dates back to when women had servants to dress them) and I’ve never known anyone to notice when I do it “wrong.” Put the buttons on whichever side you want. Whichever side you choose, the side where the buttonholes are will be called the front, and the side where the buttons are will be called the back.
When you’ve decided, overlap the edges, making sure that the bottom edges line up. Mark this spot or, preferably, pin it. If you’re a girl, also find the spot of greatest stress (usually right between your breasts) and mark there.
If you can, slip the sweater off over your head with the pins intact. If you can’t, make sure to mark the correct spot on both layers before unpinning, so you can match them up accurately.
Next, decide how far apart you want your buttons. You can measure the distance between your two pins and then calculate how far apart the buttons should be.
l-b/n = d
That’s the length between the pins minus the diameter of the buttons divided by the number of buttons you want equals the distance between each button. I think that should work out, it’s what I used.
You can also just eyeball it if you want. Regardless, mark where all of the buttons will go with chalk or pins. Now, you have an option. Do you want your buttons to show all the way through? I decided that my ribbed button placket looked nice and I wanted to hide the buttons. So I folded the outermost layer on the front back and marked my buttonholes on just the inside layer.
Now, cut a slit the width of the button and make a bound buttonhole with a mattress stitch. But wait! If your sweater is stretchy and you’re ok with the buttons showing, you might want to cut a strip of fusible interfacing and iron it in between the layers. This will keep the buttons from pulling and stretching the fabric. If you do this, do the same on the other side to stabilize the buttons. In the finished picture, you can see a slight rippling where I did not add interfacing. Tsk tsk.
Once you’ve sewed your buttons on, you’re good to go. If you made your buttonholes only through the back layer like me, you’ll need to sew the two layers back together. Otherwise the back layer will pull in a strange manner.
That’s all there is to it! Fall in love with your favorite snuggly hoodie all over again.
Refashioned thrifted wool patchwork jacket w/leather ‘bow’ belt, refashioned thrifted zippered boots, refashioned skirt-from-blouse with lace lining from thrifted wedding dress, sweater tights from Target, long-sleeved shirt borrowed from boyfriend (not shown). Total outfit cost: ~$20
I don’t like baby doll dresses. Blasphemy? Perhaps. Google “baby doll dress” and you’ll find a wide variety of styles, some of which are lovely. But I am not a fan of the classic completely free-flowing A-line skirt that starts just under the boobs. I know it’s supposed to be flattering, forgiving and adorable, but in the words of my ever-supportive Male Compatriot, I “look preggo. Like, really upscale, sophisticated preggo.” Therefore, I am an avowed babydoll dress hater.
Enter the XL blue silk maxi dress I found at Goodwill. I was supposed to be shopping for my sister (I did find her some cute dresses) but when I saw the two plus yards of gorgeous, fragile, warm-to-the-touch, beautiful, shimmery Havasupai-Falls-blue silk hanging on a return rack, I flipped. I mean, how could I NOT?
Breathlessly, I rushed to the cash register. “This is $6.99, right?” I demanded.
“Uhhhh… yes?” the cashier responded dubiously. “It’s a little cold for a dress like that, though, gonna snow tonight.”
“It’s SILK,” I told him.
He was visibly unimpressed.
Undaunted, I set about the task of fretting over what to do with it. Ultimately I decided on a floaty halter dress, and that turned into the babydoll that you see at the top of this post.
It’s still solidly winter, and winter means boots. Also, I am occasionally prone to impulse buys when thrifting. Ok, really prone. Over two years ago, I picked up a pair of fashionably slouchy black mid-calf boots. What could I do? They’re real suede, my size (um, maybe a size bigger), and were under $10. I tell ya, you would have done the same.
Unfortunately, I have small calves for my height, and can’t fill out a pair of boots to save my life. The ankle boot look only looks good with boots that are, well, actually ankle boots, so I spent a long time stubbornly stuffing them with thick socks or safety pinning them to my tights. These efforts were almost always unsuccessful, but I didn’t want to just give such a nice pair of boots back to Goodwill.
Finally, this winter I was looking at knee-high flats. If only my lovely boots would just stay up, and if only they were a little longer, then I wouldn’t have to donate them to make room for new boots. New boots that looked rather a lot like the ones I already had, in fact. Boots that wouldn’t stay up even if I bought them, because the calf circumference was too big. If only I could find affordable leather knee-high boots with no heel and a fitted zipper. Hah!
At last, I got fed up. Why couldn’t my existing boots be everything I wanted?
No reason, really. All there is to fear is fear itself, and all that. Besides, I reasoned, they weren’t doing anyone any good sitting in my closet.
Several hours and a lot of cursing later, I have fully-functioning lovely tall boots that haven’t fallen down yet, even when worn with bare legs. They’re already my favorite pair of boots ever. I’m even going to try taking them to Vegas with me — who says dancing has to mean heels?
*Take on this project at your own risk — regular sewing machines aren’t designed to sew shoes.* *Nor are regular thumbs and thimbles*