Fashion

Easy Dress-to-Skirt Upcycle

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Before

A few years ago, I bought a cute strapless sundress. I wore it a lot that summer, then my tastes changed just enough to push it to the back of the closet. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have room in my closet for things I don’t wear!

I loved the bottom, but didn’t love the top or where the waist fell. It didn’t have pockets. By converting it into a skirt and adding some pockets, it could be transformed into a wardrobe staple.

Step 1: Deconstruction

I cut most of the bodice from the skirt, leaving a little bit of length at the waist. With my well-used seam ripper, I carefully picked out the side seams from the waist to about 2 inches below the hip.

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Top removed and sides opened

Step 2: Pockets

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Two plain old pockets cut from a repurposed pattern

Since the skirt’s gathered style gave it quite a bit of volume, I opted to hide the pockets on the inside. I found some neutral lightweight woven fabric in the scrap pile that had enough strength to handle keys and cell phones. I used a pocket pattern I had from another project (also checked to make sure it would hold my phone).

Once cut, I serged the pocket fronts and backs together, leaving the side openings alone. It doesn’t really matter if the openings match the skirt, since it is easy to close any open seams later.

I carefully pinned the pockets in place, making sure the top of the pocket was no higher than the new waistband would be.

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Pocket pinned in place

From the wrong side, I sewed the pocket front to the skirt front and the pocket back to the skirt back. I closed the little bit of side seam opening left below the pockets.

I turned the skirt so I was now working on the right side. With my fingers, I rolled the pocket seams just slightly to the inside and carefully pressed them in place. Then I made sure they would stay that way by topstitching as close to the edge as I could get in a matching thread. One more press and I had an opening that’s practically invisible!

Step 3: Elastic Waistband

skirt_upcycle_10There are a lot of waistband options for gathered skirts. I chose the one I thought I could do the fastest. My waistband is simply a length of wide elastic serged to the top of the skirt. I’m not even sure how long my elastic piece is – I just wrapped it around my waist and adjusted it until it felt snug. I sewed the elastic into a loop with a secure box stitch.

The rest was simple. I divided the elastic into 4 equal parts, marking with pins. I pinned the elastic to the right side of the skirt so the upper edges aligned, placing the pins at the center front, center back, and side seams. Just to make sure I distributed the elastic evenly, I pinned some more. I serged it all together using a 3 thread overlock stitch, stretching as I went.

Done!

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After

The whole thing took a couple of hours, most of which was spent taking out the side stitches.

Coming soon, more instant gratification summer sewing.

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Pets · Whimsy

Wintertime Doggie Sweater

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Brrrrr! Wake me in April.

Here in New England, cold days are hard to avoid. Lately it seems like my dog has gone into hibernation. She’s a pretty furry girl, so I don’t usually do the dog coat thing, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Last winter, I practically lived in my favorite wool fair isle turtleneck. But I found out the hard way that the hand wash setting on the washing machine wasn’t exactly the same thing as actual hand washing. While the sweater still looked good, it was way too small to ever wear again.

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Starting point

Upon closer examination, it was still nice and soft, but now it was a little bit felted too. The benefit of felting is that now I didn’t have to be concerned about raveling if I wanted to cut into it.

I thought about what I could do with it. I considered mittens, a hat, or possibly a vest. Then I saw my dog curled so tightly that she looked like a furry throw pillow. She was going to get a sweater!

Here’s how I did it.

First, measure the dog. You’ll need to know circumference around the middle, circumference of the neck, and length from neck to tail.

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Measure the dog. (Yes, her bed is on my desk. Try not to judge).

I made my own pattern based on her measurements. The easiest way to make it would be to just plan on the pattern being the exact shape of the finished coat. Instead of hemming, I would just sew bias tape on the raw edges. Once the pattern was done, I thought about how to best place the design on the sweater. I brought out some wide double-fold bias tape I thought might work. I also went through my box of bag parts for webbing and closures.

When I get rid of worn out backpacks or other bags, I cut off any good d-rings, fasteners, swivel clasps, and anything else I think I might use. They all go in a box for occasions such as this. For the dog coat, I found a side-release buckle and slider. I added a scrap length of 1 in. black cotton webbing that was the right size to fit them.

I tried a few colors of bias tape and settled on the hot pink.

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Once I had all of the supplies together, I cut into the sweater. I removed the sleeves and cut the front from the back. I took off the turtleneck, but left a little of the main sweater attached in case I wanted to use it. As I expected, it didn’t ravel.

While it wouldn’t work out every time, in this case, the turtleneck was just the right size to fit the dog comfortably. So I made that the neck piece.

Once I cut the coat shape, I did a rough fitting.

I pinned the neck and the body together to fit the dog’s proportions. The I sewed them together using a 3-thread overlock stitch on my serger.

Next I bound the raw edges with the pink bias tape.

Around this time, I realized that I didn’t have a plan for the raw neck edge at the base of the turtleneck. I didn’t want to use the bias tape because I wanted to maintain its stretchiness. I found some black fold-over elastic (FOE) and used that, even though it wasn’t a perfect match. I didn’t think the dog would mind. Also, it’s practically invisible when she has the coat on.

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I thought the FOE would also be a pretty good solution for making a buttonhole (for a leash attachment point). I zigzagged it into place, then carefully opened a slot in the piece’s middle. If I were to do this over again, I would put some stretchy stabilizer under the buttonhole area before stitching. It’s fine, but it could tear given enough pressure.

The last step was the strap that goes around the dog’s middle. First I put together a test belt using the hardware, webbing and a few pins. After some convincing, I was able to test it on the dog. I snugged it up a bit and brought the pieces to the machine. I chose to sew the entire belt to the underside of the sweater instead of making two smaller pieces attached to the sides. While that would be fine for stable fabrics, I’m sure that the knit would stretch.

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I’m warm!

The finished product is slightly imperfect, but sooo cute – just like my dog!