Sew something creative


What makes a great thrift store refashion?

I started out this post as a DIY tutorial for this chevron sweater. Soon it was more complicated than useful. But as I’ve been staring at the blank screen for far too long, I started thinking long about refashioning.

thrift store refashion of a ivory poncho into a chevron sweater with buttons

What makes a great thrift store refashion?

Probably an unpopular opinion: if you take in the sides of a dress that’s too big, it’s not a refashion. It’s an alteration. While altering clothes to fit is a useful skill in your sewing, it’s not the most creative way to refashion.

thrift store refashion of a ivory poncho into a chevron sweater with buttons

It’s always always my goal to help you sew something creative, so here’s 6 things you can do for a great thrift store refashion.

1. Go for transformation

If you aim for transformation, you’ll almost always end up with a great thrift store refashion. Starting with a skirt? Make a top. If you have a pair of jeans–cut them into a coat like this one.


Curtains can become so many, many things. If you’re having a hard time seeing beyond what the original garment is, here’s a simple trick. Fold up the garment as if it were a bolt of fabric. When you take away the reference of what’s on the hanger, the ideas will start popping!

thrift store refashion of a caftan turned into a jacket.  Wearing the jacket outside, throwing a hat in the air

One of my favorite jackets started life as the world’s most questionable caftan. Wow, it was horrid.

2. Always go for the fabric

Thrift stores are where a lot of old clothes go to die. And some things should. Regularly I see old dated 90s dresses in icky lifeless fabric with dated prints or pilled surfaces. Pass them by. If you’re taking the time to sew something new from something old, always go for the fabric.

french terry bomber jacket thrift store refashion with blush ponte dress and peach booties
olive french terry sweatshirt gets new life as a bomber jacket

The quality of fabric will make or break a good thrift store refashion. Look at tags to know what the fiber content is. Natural fibers will always age better than synthetics. Cashmere, 100% cotton, linen and linen blends are my favorite. Feel the fabric. Is it scratchy? Buh-bye. And it’s a hard pass on any type of knit that’s stretched out.

graphic quote: "Good fabric = good fabric no matter the source"

3. You can always change a weird color

So in your thrifting adventures, you’ve stumbled on a great quality fabric, but the color is just…off. Buy it anyway. Hear me now, you can ALWAYS change a weird fabric color. Always.

Natural fibers can be bleached, or you can experiment with something like RIT Dye Remover. I used Dye Remover on the linen/cotton curtains for this dress and added stripes with a bleach pen.

thrift store refashion of curtains bleached an d remade into a women's shirtdress

If bleach freaks you out, grab a bottle of dye. Natural fibers + dye= easy win and synthetics are simple to dye with the right dye. I could write sonnets to Rit DyeMore I love it so much for synthetics. It shows up in so many of my projects like this coat, a lot of zippers like for this hoodie, and this experimental thrift store refashion.

colorblocked boiled wool coat
colorblocking with Rit DyeMore

4. Be fearless and creative with your cutting

The best thrift store refashions are going to be innovative with cutting. You can’t always be 100% true to the grainline like you can when you sew with yardage. You will be short somewhere almost always. So piece the fabric where you need it. If you can do that invisibly, great, and if not, make it a design element.

side of a thrift store refashion sweater chevron of cashmere knit stripes in ivory sweater knit

Add a contrast color to make up for your lack of yardage. Or purposely colorblock. The contrast chevrons in this sweater came from an old cashmere sweater. The ivory fabric was an old knit poncho. While the cutting work was really precise and complicated, it makes a big impact on the final sweater.

back of a thrift store refashion sweater chevron of cashmere knit stripes in ivory sweater knit

5. Be wise when you mix fabrics

I’m sure you’ve seen them–those projects where fabrics are sewn together that just don’t look right. It’s always good to choose fabrics whose colors play well together. Also, keep in mind the weight and the composition of the fabrics.

For instance, when you mix knits together, they really need to have the same weight and stretch to them. If they’re not, they will fight each other and you’ll have a pretty homemade looking creation. This geometric dress isn’t a refashion, but this dress works well because all of the different knits are almost identical in weight and stretch.

colorblocked knit dress

When you mix wovens, they should have similar weights but also similar drapes. A man’s shirt with its rather stiff drape is going to wage war with a drapey rayon you found in a vintage dress. But mixing the fabrics in 2 men’s shirts can make for a creative thrift store refashion.

thrift store refashion of a men's plaid shirt and a plain linen shirt remade into a women's shirtdress

6. Use cool buttons

If you sew for yourself, you know the eternal struggle of finding good quality buttons that aren’t a million dollars. This is where the thrift store can really have your back.

close up of buttons and embroidery on a thrift store refashion of a sweater
Buttons from another sweater!

Sometimes garments way past their prime will still have usable buttons in perfect condition. Often they’re much more interesting than the ones you’ll find in fabric stores. The ones for this sweater came off of a very worn and shrunken sweater. With some loops and added embroidery, the buttons now are a focal point. Definitely a successful thrift store refashion!

Creativity is a muscle that you work!

In the end, almost all the fun of a good refashion project is seeing how limited resources will force you to rethink what you’re doing. Yes, it will frustrate you, yes, the ideas won’t be obvious when you start, but take a step back, and I promise you will come up with a good solution.

The next time you start a refashion project, keep the transformation in mind. Always go for good quality fabric, and know that you can always change the color of the fabric. Be fearless and creative when you pick up your scissors and wise when you mix fabrics together. And if you can top it off with cool buttons, you’re well on your way to a great thrift store refashion!

It’s always a little intimidating to start thinking of how I’m going to go after my own challenge, and this year’s Day and Night Dress Challenge has been no different. For this year’s twist, I found a neglected ponte dress and went on a color adventure.

Wearing a sleeveless dress year round

A sleeveless dress in winter–literally what was I thinking?

Burdastyle 9-2010-122 dress in blush ponte

                My chosen dress is this blush ponte dress.  The pattern is Burdastyle 9-2010-122.  I made it a few years back for an easy wearing dress for the opera.  It’s made its way to a wedding too.  With cool style lines and the comfort of a knit dress, why on earth haven’t I worn it more.

3 words: sleeveless, Colorado, ponte. What a trifecta of unwearable those words have become!  When it’s warm enough to wear the dress, it’s too hot for the ponte, and in winter it’s a freeze fest.  My goal for this challenge was to make this otherwise very wearable something that works. 

My personal style

Burdastyle 9-2010-122 dress paired with embroidered organza trench coat and french terry bomber jacket refashion

I don’t know about a style, but I do have a really clear aesthetic.  It’s Spring all year round as far as color is concerned, and I’m constantly looking to add texture to everything.  My husband says I’m “obsessed with asymmetry” (true).  I do like to be comfortable, so yes to bright sneakers and no to button down shirts.  If I had to throw 3 words at describing my style, it would be classic, creative, and eclectic–things that can at times be at odds with each other.

Whenever I start a new project, I steer towards fabrics I want to work with.  If a fabric is an ugly duckling, I will happily reach for the dye.   For this year’s Day and Night Dress Challenge, color was my muse.  Here, blush meets olive, coral, and lemon.

Day look: olive + coral refashion

olive french terry bomber jacket

My everyday wardrobe is a lot of comfortable.  My everyday wardrobe has to deal with bustling around driving my kids to school and soccer and church.  I teach violin part time after school too.  Violin requires a lot of freedom of movement for me so I don’t repetitive motion myself into pain.  Knit dresses and tops are ideal. 

flatlay of peach booties, violin bow, music, blush ponte dress, and french terry bomber jacket
my everyday everyday

Hack a t-shirt into a bomber jacket

french terry bomber jacket refashion with blush ponte dress and peach booties

With this in mind, I wanted to create a simple bomber jacket/cardigan combo.  I found a great olive french terry sweatshirt to refashion.  I cut it up using  Ottobre 5-2015-15 .  I’ve actually made this pattern now in various forms 4 times now.  The saddle sleeves are an interesting line and a fun alternative to a raglan. 

french terry bomber jacket refashion unzipped jacket with blush ponte dress and peach booties

The original pattern is a hoodie.  To get to a bomber jacket, I quick drafted a little collar band and cut it from my “ribbing”.  It also needs a center front zipper which is easily done.  Just add 3/8″ to center front and cut 2 fronts.  Boom.  Easy center front exposed zip.

closeup of ribbing on french terry bomber jacket and bracelet

Yes, there’s dye on the zip!

 My particular  zipper was white, but I dyed it with Rit DyeMore in yellow, super pink, and orange to get this peachy coral color.  This dye is my absolute favorite.  It’s so easy to blend, and I can dye a tiny very small things in under 5 minutes.  I love how the metallic look nylon coil picked up almost a rose gold hue with the dye.

closeup of ribbing made for french terry bomber jacket refashion

Make your own ribbing

I kept the length of the jacket as long as I could, but refashions are what they are.  To get more length I created my own ribbing with all of the sweatshirt ribbing, some of the sleeve hems, and some contrast coral ponte.  I know I’ve steered away from making bomber style jackets in the past because I could never find the right multicolored ribbing.  It was a revelation to just piece my own in strips.  This will not be the last time I do this!

The fronts are lined with the same coral ponte for a little extra warmth and some clean insides. 

Bust out the tools

removing metallic studs for sewing and gluing them back on after sewing with Fabric Fusion glue

The only tricky part of this whole refashion were the decorative studs.  To cut and sew my jacket, I had to remove the studs out of the seam alllowances.  Pliers make quick work of it.  After sewing was done, I glued them back on with Fabric Fusion.  Fun fact: I glued one stud to my forearm which was discovered later that day by my youngest student. 

french terry bomber jacket refashion and metallic studs

This kind of jacket is totally my style.  The minimal collar and knit fabric makes it easy to play in, and I can toss it on over just about everything.  I’ve already worn it with a seasonally inappropriate sundress and wool t-shirt!

Night look: that time when fabric really does speak to you

closeup of yellow embroidered organza trench coat

I know I’m among sewing people here who aren’t going to think I’m weird, but you all know those times when you see a fabric and it’s like the skies open up and you lose sight of just about everything for a second.  So it was with this embroidered organza.  It’s positively lemon AND it has a decorative selvage. 

yellow embroidered organza trench coat, blush pink dress

I found it discreetly hanging out on a shelf at Fabric Mart when I was at their store this last summer.  Instantly I knew it had to be a sheer trench coat.  It was a specific thought, but I’ve never wavered from the idea.

For it, I used Ottobre 2-2014-20 which is a super fabulous trench coat pattern with all the bells and whistles.  I will definitely be making a lined version of this at some point.

Making beautiful sheer seams and picking interfacing for fussy fabric

sheer seam finish on yellow embroidered organza

You always have to consider a couple of things when you’re working with sheer fabrics.  What seam finish you use is probably #1.  French seams are classic, but they were a little too heavy on this particular fabric which is heavy with the embroidery.  In the end, I used a cross between a Hong Kong finish and a French seam.  You sew the seam regularly, then trim one side of the seam.  Next, you wrap the untrimmed seam allowance around the trimmed one and stitch it down close to the wrapped edge.  It’s simple, clean, and a way lighter finish in this fabric.

collar of yellow embroidered organza trench coat

For interfacing, I used silk organza.  It’s time consuming to hand baste the organza to the fashion fabric pieces, but a popped collar is worth all of the time. The organza gave a lot of structure and stability, so I wasn’t a bit worried about all the many buttonholes or these giant vintage coat buttons.

yellow white striped buttons on yellow embroidered organza trench coat

Using the decorative selvages

scalloped front edges on yellow embroidered organza trench coat

If a fabric has a pretty selvage, use it.  Seriously.  You’ll thank me later.

For this one, I cut 1.75″ strips of the selvage and used them as trim along the front edges and hem.  The hems are a little tricky because they’re sewn a little bit like a pants cuff but so the “cuff” sits on the inside, exposing the trim.  I’m glad I had enough to add all of the trim on this one.  With 3 yards and a double scallop selvage, I used all but about 6″ of the 6 yards!

pockets on yellow embroidered organza trench coat, blush pink dress, and peach booties
of course there’s pockets

Where is lemon chiffon + blush going?

yellow embroidered organza trench coat, blush pink dress, and peach booties

I’d be really tempted to put this combination in a closet and only pull it out on really fancy occasions, but that would be totally against the whole idea of this year’s theme.  Nice dinners happen a few times a year, and a night at the opera once every few years.  Still, I’m determined to wear this everywhere.  Probably I’ll be at the grocery store, absurdly overdressed and happy to be so!

flatlay of yellow embroidered organza trench coat and Forbidden Island board game

For real though, this combination will be for sure making an appearance at the monthly Game Night my family and I attend.  We bust out all the nerdiest board games with friends and snacks and it’s all good fun.  It’ll be seasonally inappropriate this month, but Spring will be here soon!

Sewing a flexible wardrobe

This challenge has been good for me to help me thinking about how to add more flexibility in my wardrobe.  It’s so nice when you can go to get dressed and know that this goes with that goes with this.  It super helps with the stress of getting dressed, and the more I do it, the more I love my handmade wardrobe!

Are the ideas for your own Day and Night Dress Challenge popping yet?

Be sure to check out Karina and Helena’s own adventures!


  1. Find your lonely dress in your closet! Sew up 2 extra pieces to coordinate with your dress for a day look and a night look.
  2. Let other people know about it.  Use #dayandnightdresschallenge on Twitter and Instagram and follow the Day and Night Dress Challenge Facebook group.
  3. Keep reading here to find out the latest.  Follow Elizabeth Made This on Instagram andFacebook.
  4. Post a picture of your newly styled dress and extra pieces in your day look and your night look to Instagram to enter yourself.  Don’t forget to tag me @elizabethmadethis and use the #dayandnightdresschallenge.
  5. Grab the graphic below and post it on your site and/or repost on Instagram:     

It’s a New Year, and though we all know that New Year’s Resolutions are not always the things you stick to, there’s something about wanting to revisit what’s working and what you’d like to change when January 1st strikes. I’ve personally been wracking my brain for months trying to figure out how to make Elizabeth Made This a more useful place for everyone who visits here. Writing about my own projects have served me well for a long time, but how can I reach more people–no, how can I HELP people learn to sew? Wow, long intro there, and this is going to be a way different post, but here’s how I’m shifting my blog focus in 2019.

standing on my head

“If I should suddenly start to sing or stand on my head or anything, don’t think that I’ve lost my senses, it’s just that my happiness finally commences…”


Shifting my blog focus in 2019

A brief history

Before I tell you where I want to go, it’s useful to know where things began around here.  I wrote my first blog post in 2007? Who knows? It was so long ago, but the point is that I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I love sewing. A lot. And writing about it gave me a way to work out what I was learning. But I’ve had no clear direction for forever. I’ve dabbled in a lot of different things, but I’ve never consistently written about anything.  I’ve gone through times of total blog silence and frenzied productivity.  But as I’ve seen my own knowledge about sewing and my skills grow, I’ve come to this slow realization that I don’t want to keep on writing about only MY projects forever.  So now what? How do I even begin shifting my blog focus?

First comes teaching

kids' choir

Teaching is the first element when it comes to shifting my blog focus. I really loved my job as an elementary music teacher.  I taught 1st-6th graders for 7 years before my oldest son was born.  Teaching was so not natural to me.  In both my undergraduate and graduate music education programs, I felt like a total phony.  All of my peers seemed to have had private lesson studios since they were in high school.  I nearly passed out the first time I stood on the podium to conduct a rehearsal.  But I kept on.  I had WONDERFUL mentors in both programs who kept encouraging me to keep trying.  Direct quote from one of my teachers: “Elizabeth, if you can just break out of your shell, you’ll be a wonderful teacher.” 

And I plugged on at this thing that was so foreign to me and I got better at it.  To the point that I absolutely can’t see the world without looking through the eyes of a teacher.  And when I see a student connect the dots, wow.   Joy confetti everywhere in my head!  You can ask my kids, but after my violin students go home for the night, it takes me a while to come down off of Teacher Mountain.

ruffle sweatshirt

So yeah, teaching is going to become a big part of Elizabeth Made This.  I want to be that coach who comes alongside you and encourages you to keep working through a problem.  Keep an eye out for helpful sewing advice, pattern hacking tutorials like this ruffle sweatshirt, refashioning, DIY projects that you can make for yourself, and talk about creating a handmade wardrobe that makes sense for your everyday life.

Next comes writing

Writing is so at the heart of shifting my blog focus too! If I have a regret, it’s that I got into making videos on YouTube before I was really ready for it.  It did remind me that I love love love teaching, but it also split my focus and turned it away from writing.

So while blogging as a method of communication is not for everyone, I can’t let go of it simply because writing is something that’s always been a part of my life.  There’s probably a book deep down in me somewhere!

I won’t be saying no to video for forever, but any video work I do in the future is going to support all of the content that I’ll be creating here on Elizabeth Made This.

Creativity is the most important piece of the equation

slip dress from scarves
While not my favorite make of 2018, definitely a fun concept I went for

It’s taken me a long time to come to the tagline of “Sew something creative”, but that really is my goal.  I am a creative person with a capital C and truly want others to be able to see how that creativity comes about and how they can apply it to their own sewing.

DIY is so the core of everything I do.  I’ve had loooong conversations with friends about pattern hacking, refashioning, and fabric dye and blockprinting and applique and all the ways I otherwise abuse fabric in an effort to make something unique.  I want to show more of that process and demystify it for you.  If I can’t convince you that Rit DyeMore will change your life, I will have failed!!!!

colorblocked boiled wool coat
Colorblocked boiled wool coat made with Rit DyeMore


I can’t forget about story in shifting my blog focus. Sewing your own garments is not an activity that exists in a box.  Those garments go somewhere–they live your life, they do what you do.  I want to hear those stories from other people.  I want to tell those stories in pictures and in writing.  Those pictures are the ones I want to take–not just the ones that show the finished product.

A New Year, a real focus

So with that in mind, I’m plowing into 2019.  I’m announcing The Day and Night Dress Challenge tomorrow, and I’m shaking it up massively this year.  I think it’ll be an interesting turn.  Perhaps it’s been too long that I’ve tried to be other people instead of just letting myself look at sewing the way that I see it.  If you’ve read this blog for a long time, I want to thank you for sticking with me through a lot of terrible pictures, stream of consciousness and general blog squirrels.  And if this is your first time here, all I can say is, let me prove this year that I can help you sew something creative!

What will your 2019 look like in your sewing life?

shifting my blog focus
ugly Christmas sweater

I can’t say that I ever participated in the Ugly Christmas sweater phenomenon growing up.  Yes, I did DIY a Santa hat with lots of lights for orchestra performances in junior high, but an ugly Christmas sweater?  Nope.  So the past several years, I’ve seen more and more of these absurdly over-the-top creations ranging from funny to tacky to even vulgar.  While I’ll pass on the last category, I’m definitely embracing the tacky and over the top with this pompom laden no-sew ugly Christmas sweater.  Let me show you how I made mine and how you can make one for yourself!

Pompom no-sew ugly Christmas sweater

Find a sweater as your base

To make this sweater, you’ll need a sweater as a base to hold all the pompoms.

ugly Christmas sweater

Any style of sweater will do!  You control how many pompoms are on your final sweater, so a cardigan, vest, long-sleeved, zippered style will do.  The only thing is that you want a sweater with a reasonably closely knit structure.  More open-knit sweaters will be difficult to work with because the pompoms won’t have enough structure to latch onto.

I chose a short sleeved cardigan for mine.  It was a little bit too large for me, so I spent time first taking in the sides a little bit and taking in the neck significantly through a series of darts.  The more closely fitting your sweater can be, the better because the pompoms are going to add an unholy amount of bulk to your sweater!

Make a crazy number of pompoms.  And then make more.  And probably more still.

ugly Christmas sweater

Next, you want to start making pompoms.  I found this tutorial on YouTube helpful.

Get ready to go through a crazy amount of yarn.  1 reasonably sized skein yielded between 5-10 3″ diameter pompoms.  Bulky yarns work really really well for this.  Chunky wool and wool blends are ideal, though I liked the bulky acrylics too.  My least favorite were the thinner acrylic yarns, though I used them too for the color (olive with gold flecks!!).

Consider some unconventional places like thrift stores as you’re gathering yarn.  I was able to find several quality yarns (cashmere for change!) at my local thrift store and also ReCreative in Denver.

ugly Christmas sweater

In total, I think there’s close to 100 pompoms on my sweater.  I initially estimated about 60, but they really take up less space than you think.  The good news is that while this sounds like a big undertaking, it’s pretty mindless work.  You can wrap and tie them up in the dark while you’re watching a movie.  Trim several up at a time while you’re waiting for water to heat up for your tea.  

All this yarn reminds me of my favorite sweater refashion of all time!

Get the pompoms ready

This is a no-sew project, but you’re still going to need a needle with a large eye.  An upholstery or darning needle will do the trick.  It’s not for sewing, it’s for helping thread the pompoms through the sweater base so you can tie them.

ugly Christmas sweater
Thread your yarn through the needle

If you made your pompoms the right way, there should be some long tails that survived through all the trimming process.  If you cut them off or forgot to put them on, let me show you how to fix it. 

ugly Christmas sweater
Run the yarn right through the center of the pompom

First thread your needle with about 12″ of yarn.  You want to use a yarn that’s of the same weight or heavier than the pompom itself.  This way it’ll support the pompom no problem.  Put the needle point through the center of the pompom and pull it through so the yarn is centered in the pompom.

ugly Christmas sweater
Happy square knot

Make a nice square knot (right over left, then left over right).  You want to have 2 of these strands through the middle for a total of 4 long threads in each pompom.

ugly Christmas sweater

Now we tie!

ugly Christmas sweater
Place the pompom where you want it

Thread one of the tails through the needle, then poke the needle end through the sweater.  Repeat with another tail, making sure that the second tail is at least 1″ away from the first.  This will give the pompom a wide base of support.  On the wrong side of the sweater, tie a very secure square knot.  Repeat with the second set of tails.  

ugly Christmas sweater
Tail #1 to the wrong side
ugly Christmas sweater
Both tails on the wrong side. 
ugly Christmas sweater
Tie a firm square knot.

Trim the tails on the inside, leaving about 1″ away from the knot.  If you want, you can tie some of the tails to other tails from other pompoms for more security.

Add the next pompom right next to the last, covering up all the surface of the sweater.  Keep tying on more pompoms until you’re thoroughly satisfied.

Tips for pompom tying   

ugly Christmas sweater
A dress form makes it easy to tie and see how pompoms will sit
  1. Use a dress form or a really patient model:  It’s pretty difficult to know how the pompoms are going to sit.  What’s covered on a person might have big holes when you’re working on the floor.  Tying is going to take a couple of hours, so a dress form will really help you see where pompoms are going to sit when you’re wearing your creation.
  2. Square knot: At some point you’ll have to tie square knots upside down.  Some parts of the sweater will just be awkward like that.  Be sure you’re still tying proper square knots.  I lost a couple pompoms and had to redo them when I accidentally tied the similar but totally unsecure granny knot instead.

Make it your own

ugly Christmas sweater

The variations on this kind of pompom ugly Christmas sweater are endless.  Make it in several shades of the same color or vary several different colors for a colorblocked effect.  Or place pompoms at random as I’ve done.

This is not a serious garment!  Be as crazy as you want!

The over-the-topness of it all is a bit like this totally 80s refashioned sweater!

ugly Christmas sweater

Styling tips for your pompom ugly Christmas sweater

ugly Christmas sweater
  • Keep it simple and fitted: your pompom ugly Christmas sweater has a crazy amount of volume.  Balance it out with a simple t-shirt and slim fitting jeans or leggings. I’ve paired mine with some olive motorcycle leggings, a cream t-shirt, and black boots.  There’s a long necklace in there too somewhere!
  • Be ready for reactions: Fair warning–people will want to hug you or poke you/otherwise get in your space when you don a sweater like this.  Have a good sense of humor about it and defend your space if it’s weirding you out!  

Go big or go home

So while this look is a little bonkers, sometimes it’s okay to go way over the top.  

ugly Christmas sweater
pompom trimmings make sweet confetti too!

So by now, you’ve got a good idea of how to make your own pompom ugly Christmas sweater.  We’ve talked about what sweaters work well for this project, you’ve seen how to tie all the pompoms on your sweater, and now you have some ideas ideas about how to wear it.  Whatever you do, own this look, and most of all, have fun with it!

ugly Christmas sweater
Pin this image

Sew Over It Penny dress

The light was filmy, and the woods around me positively technicolor.  Elaborate spider webs lay untouched and moss grew wild.  I half expected a gnome to jump out and yell, gotcha.  It was not the place that I first imagined my Sew Over It Penny dress in this rather tropical Lady McElroy fabric to take a walk, but a couple weeks back, as my husband and I explored The Haunted Wood at the Green Gables house on Prince Edward Island, that’s exactly what happened.

“Oh, Marilla, I wouldn’t go through the Haunted Wood after dark now for anything. I’d be sure that white things would reach out from behind the trees and grab me.” Chapter XX, Anne of Green Gables

Sew Over It Penny Dress in the Wilds of Canada

Sew Over It Penny dress

Okay, so it wasn’t that dramatic.  But still, it’s not everyday my handmade garments get to have such a moody backdrop.  Usually, the most common place my handmade garments find them is in the driver’s seat of my minivan with my crew to soccer practice in probably possibly in the form of my latest pair of crazy jams.

It’s pretty easy to see how these woods inspired L.M. Montgomery’s imagination as she wrote Anne of Green Gables.  It was too cool to get to take pictures in such a place–the inspiration itself for one of my favorite books of all time.  Dude–this dress?!  I wouldn’t wear puffed sleeves, but THIS dress!!!!!

“Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was–a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves–they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon.” Chapter XXV, Anne of Green Gables

But let’s get into my dress itself.

Lady McElroy lawn

Sew Over It Penny dress

I was totally taken by this Lady McElroy lawn.  Last year I had seen Lauren Guthrie make it up into a project and instantly loved the peachy pinks. I may or may not have stalked this fabric for a while on about every website possible, trying to justify the price + the crazy expensive shipping from the UK.

As it turned out, Fancy Tiger stocks it which saved me a buttload in shipping plus the chance to see it in person.  This is really lovely fabric.  It’s crisp and has good structure, making for a proper popped collar, yet it has a hand that’s nearly as lovely as a silk cotton blend.  While it wasn’t cheap at $22/yd, this dress only took up 1 1/3 yds with my modification on the skirt.

Sew Over It Penny dress

Narrow that skirt, thread up a drawstring, that’s how we hack it

Just like on my shibori dress, I narrowed the skirt for this version of the Sew Over It Penny dress.  I think half circle skirts look great on other people, but they always feel like far too much fabric for my frame and height.  This slightly A-line skirt I added from my self-drafted pencil skirt is just the right amount of sweep at the hem for me on this one.

Sew Over It Penny dress

Because I’m like the Princess and the Pea with elastic, I added the drawstring.  To do so, I added 2 tiny buttonholes on either side of the center front at the bottom of the bodice.  The drawstring is threaded through the casing then.  A full elastic waist is perhaps the most uncomfortable thing to me, plus I love how a drawstring is a built-in belt and that I have the option of tightening or loosening it.  With a sewn-in elastic waist you don’t have that option, plus you’re probably adding a belt to add some waist definition.

Sew Over It Penny dress pattern review

Sew Over It Penny dress

In terms of the actual sewing of the dress, this is pretty easy sew.  There’s no darts or zippers, though there is a collar.  I think this would be appropriate for any beginning sewist who’s ready to tackle putting in a collar.  There’s no collar stand which requires more precise stitching, and the facing makes for a really clean inside.  Shoot, you could make it collarless and make it even easier.

The dress has a great silhouette to it, and I think there’s very few body types it wouldn’t work for.  Maybe consider narrowing the skirt if you’re petite like me.  Otherwise, this has a great classic look and super easy to style with a jacket, cardigan, tights, whatever!!

A better shoulder yoke

Sew Over It Penny dress

For all the loveliness of this pattern, I have a serious beef with the shoulder yoke.  For some reason, the directions would have you leave all of the seam allowances just serged/zigzagged off on the inside.

Sew Over It Penny dress
How would you sew it: Per the pattern directions (left) or with a clean finish burrito style (right)?

A clean-finish yoke like what you’d see on the inside of a RTW men’s shirt is SOOOOOOO much nicer and really doesn’t require a whole lot more in terms of the construction.  Sometimes rough inside finishes get the job done quickly, and that’s totally okay.  In this instance, why you would choose to skip a clean finish is a mystery.

Sew Over It Penny dress

But that’s one of those things.  Sometimes you follow the directions to the T and you move on.  On the other hand, when you’ve done something a certain way, you have an opinion about it.  If you like the way to construct something better than what’s in the pattern directions, make it the way you like.  The pattern police won’t come and get you!

That’s my thoughts for the Sew Over It Penny dress and my walk in the woods, but I’m curious:

Are you a follow-the-instructions type, or do you go your own way when you sew?

distressed sweatshirt

It seems that distressed fabrics are having their thing.  I’m always slow to jump on things fashion trends, but once in a while, it’s kind of fun to just experiment and see if you might possibly like something.  Refashions are one of my favorite ways to experiment with fashion.  Your investment in the project is low, so if it’s a total flop, no love is lost.  And if you really like the end result, you may just gain some fuel in your creative tank for future projects.  With that in mind, I set out to make this distressed sweatshirt refashion.

Distressed Sweatshirt Refashion

distressed sweatshirt

My questionable morning style sense

In the mornings, I am always cold.  I don’t like wearing kimonos (not warm enough, giant sleeves that get caught in my breakfast), and a jacket is not necessarily how I want to start the day.  For years, I’ve always grabbed a white very oversized sweatshirt hoodie.  It went through all of my pregnancies from week 0-40 and back again and all that postpartum time too.  By the end it was really gross.  In its stained and shredded state, I donated it and started wearing my husband’s hoodies.

At some point, my husband started complaining about his hoodies being left all over the house.  To remedy this, I recently went thrifting to find some kind of sweatshirting to make a version of Ottobre’s “Hideaway Hoodie” (Ottobre 2-2017-8)

from Ottobre 2-2017

Oatmeal and salmon

distressed sweatshirt

No I don’t eat salmon in my oatmeal.  That strikes me as odd, and not something I’d want to eat in my morning hoodie wearing session.  But thrifting did yield me a pair of oatmeal colored heavy french terry sweatpants as well as a salmony pink xxl french terry sweatshirt.  I instantly loved the salmon, but the oatmeal was too boring for me despite it being nice fabric.

distressed sweatshirt

To remedy the situation, I dyed the sweatpants with Rit DyeMore Kentucky sky.  Because I wanted a little more depth, I added 1/2 capful Rit DyeMore in Daffodil yellow to the dye pot in a couple of places.  I did not agitate the yellow once I added it; instead I let it spread out in the pot naturally.  What I ended up with was a fabric that was sky blue in places and a bright springy green in others.


So what does all this have to do with distressed fabric?  Well, while I liked both of the colors after I dyed the sweatpants, it wasn’t obvious how they would go together.  They’re nearly on opposite sides of the color wheel and I had no middle tone that could pull them together.  I thought and thought until someone in Sew Much Talent popped up with a simple t-shirt made in distressed jersey.

The wheels started spinning in my head, and I thought I could connect them together if I slashed both colors and backed them with the opposite color.  The brand Generation Love has several distressed sweatshirts that are worth checking out.

Crazy piecing

This sweatshirt pattern is very long–it’s nearly knee length on me.  Unlike some of the sweatshirt dresses that are out there (Victory Patterns’ Lola comes to mind), it’s not super boxy and has some good shaping with princess seams in the front that end in deep, cozy inseam pockets.

distressed sweatshirt


Because of the length, I had to do a lot of creative piecing with the pattern.  One of the things that I love about refashioning is how it forces you to use every scrap available.  So it was with this refashion.  There’s seams in weird places that would never be there on a garment made from yardage.  It’s a look that’s either crazy cool or just crazy.  In the end, I had about a 6″x6″ square left from both fabrics.


distressed sweatshirt

For most of my colorblocked projects, I will sketch out possibilities before I start cutting into fabric.  It’s kind of amazing how many different looks you can get by just moving colors around a bit.  For this one, I just kind of made decisions as I went along based on the limited yardage I had available.  I really like how some parts of it turned out.  The bi-color hood is a favorite, and I used the right and the wrong sides of the both french terry colors for a subtle difference in places.

Underlining and slashing

distressed sweatshirt

To achieve my distressed look, all of the sleeve pieces and the front pieces are underlined.  The green/blue is underlined with a salmon colored stretch lace (refashioned from a top).  For the salmon french terry, I used a seafoam quilted ponte leftover from another project I’ve not yet blogged.

Before I underlined everything, I used my rotary cutter to make horizontal slashes at random on the pieces.  I pulled at them *gently* to open them up a bit.  French terry has very little recovery, so it distresses really easily.


For this one, I didn’t use my serger. Of late, I’ve been using my regular sewing machine to sew seams on heavier knits like this, and then using my coverstitch to topstitch.  The coverstitch adds to the casual look and it does a nice job of flattening down these heavy seams in a nice professional looking way.

Welcome Colorado Spring!

Our weather has been, and is very fickle in Spring.  One day it’s 70, the next, there’s snow.  This has been a perfect sweatshirt for this time of year.  The day I took these pictures, it was about 45 and brazenly sunny.

distressed sweatshirt

Taking risks in sewing

I won’t be slashing up my fabrics anytime soon, but it was good to do something out of the ordinary for this project.  Sometimes I think it’s too easy to get stuck doing the same thing, making the same kind of garments the same way.  There’s nothing wrong with that, especially when you’re tired or your sewjo is gone, but there’s days that it’s good to push yourself to try something new.  If for no other reason, try something new so that you can have an opinion about it.

distressed sweatshirt

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your sewing?

This lace back sweater was calling my name!  It was one of those moments when I saw something and had to make it immediately.  And I’m going to walk you through how you can make your own lace back sweater.  A little background…

Toaster Sweater hack

It all started with my mailbox.  For an unknown odd reason, the Athleta catalog gets mailed to me.  99.9% of the time, I finish thumbing through in the time it takes to walk inside from my mailbox, but this time I totally got stuck on this picture of their Roamer Sweatshirt:

Toaster Sweater hack

Could I make this?  You bet.

Lace back sweater: lace + zippers =fun

What you need


Toaster Sweater hack

To start this hack, I pulled out a white French terry from my stash.  I’ve never known what to do with this fabric.  It has a great stable hand, but it’s so white!  While I generally believe that plain fabric is a blank canvas, I restrained myself and opted to pair the French terry with lace I reclaimed from a thrifted sweater.  I’m a sucker for cream lace, and this one was way nicer than a thrifted sweater has the right to be!

Toaster + length -hem band

Toaster Sweater hack

The original Toaster Sweater #1 is cropped and has a hem band.  For this hack, you need to eliminate the hem band.  To do so, simply measure the hem band and add the length to both the front and back pieces.  But also, you need to add additional length to take out that cropped style.  How much length you add will depend on your particular torso length.

Zipper back

Toaster Sweater hack

The first part of this hack involves creating the zipper in the back piece.  Stabilize the zipper area with fusible interfacing.

Next, add an exposed zipper treatment right at center back.  Make sure to sew the zipper in upside down.

Then you need to hem the back piece before adding the lace piece.  This is because the two layers will be sewn as one, so there’s no opportunity for hemming later on without ugly unpicking.

Lace underlayer

For the next part of the hack, you cut a layer of lace with an additional curved hem.  To get the additional curved part, I simply added on 5″ at CB that curves back to the side seam.  I used a French curve to make a nice clean curve.  The lace layer is then basted to the back. From there you treat it as one.

Since I was reclaiming yardage from a sweater, I actually had to piece the back.  I ran a line of Steam a Seam to fuse a the curved hem addition to the back.  A row of stitching on my coverstitch makes for an almost imperceptible flat seam.  I love piecing knits like this because there is no bulk.

At this point, baste the lace back to the zipper back.  The back is ready to go!  On to the front:

Front piece

Toaster Sweater hack

The front is a bit of a fake-out. Instead of a full double layer with the lace, there’s only the curved hem piece of lace on the front.  Make a similar curved piece addition, this time just 4″ at CF curving back to the side seams using the French curve.

Overlap the French terry and the lace by 1/4″ (again, Steam a Seam is a great tool here) and stitch in place.  I used my coverstitch again here, though a standard zigzag would work just fine too.

Finishing touches

Toaster Sweater hack

From there, you construct the sweater as the instructions would have you do.  I used the ribbing on the sweater as a neck binding instead of the binding piece, so mine is narrower.  The hem ribbing from the sweater is a hem facing for the lace.

Extra cuffs

Toaster Sweater hack

This is not part of the Athleta look, but I wanted to add some fancy cuffs that highlighted the beauty of the lace.  For my cuffs, I made a little tulip shape by extending the sides so that they curve upwards on 1 side.  For each cuff, I cut a piece of French terry and the lace without its lining that was in the sweater body.

To sew them, I put right sides together and stitched the curved ends.  Then you overlap the ends so to fit the circumference of the sleeve and baste together the layers.  To finish them, you stitch the cuffs to the sleeves in the round.  I added non-functional buttons because they’re pretty.

Last applique

Toaster Sweater hack

I hate seeing good lace go to waste, so I cut out a large motif from the scraps of the leftover lace.  It is simply stitched over one of the shoulders with a narrow zigzag.

Sporty girly

I think the Athleta top has that kind of urban cool, I just came from the gym and am going out for sushi in my track shoes kind of look that I will never achieve/be interested in.  Dude, my hair doesn’t do that perfect voluminous ponytail.  Instead, I had a great time reinterpreting this style into the more sporty ultra look that’s part of my everyday Mom look.

Toaster Sweater hack

How do you reinterpret fashion looks to fit your lifestyle?

Pinterest image of lace back sweater

shirt dress from shirts

I never got around to posting this dress.  I suppose I didn’t want to spoil it since it appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Altered Couture, but in truth, I simply forgot about it.  A mish mash of patterns and colors, this shirt dress from shirts was a fun project to play with color.   While this isn’t my coffee dress for The Day and Night Dress Challenge, I wanted to share it today.  It’s a good example of a style choice for your casual coffee dress for the challenge.

diy quilted coat

As the year draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about my general work habits a lot.  It seems my projects are either things that can be done at breakneck speed or slow, methodical affairs that take planning, precision, and ample time.  I wonder what projects in the middle of the road would look like!  This DIY quilted coat is the second type of project.  It took research, careful thought and then just a lot of hustle to complete it, and I regret no minute extra I spent on it.