I think most who sew would agree that whenever good fabric presents itself in whatever form it might currently be in, it’s hard to turn away.
Such was the case with this funky vintage oblong tablecloth I picked up at the thrift store for $2.50 a couple of weeks ago. As a collector of vintage tablecloths, I’m always looking for new and unusual ones. But something about this one made me want to do something different to it besides just put it on my table. Maybe it was the big bold floral print or the wild colors, or maybe the nice weight and feel of this heavy cotton with a distinctly tablecloth sort of weave.
To me, it screamed dress!
Etro Knockoff Dress refashioned from a tablecloth
With Patternreview’s Bargainista Contest underway, I had great motivation to figure out a way to make it work. Contests are such good vehicles for organizing your plans when you’re making a garment. Because I already had the fabric, I had to reverse engineer what my inspiration dress would be and then find a pattern from there. Searching for “floral stripe sheath dress” on Shopstyle, I came across this dress from Etro:
I really liked the trim on this dress, and while I don’t doubt the fabric they used is more luxurious than even the nicest of tablecloths out there, $1,895 seems a little excessive, right?
For the pattern, I found in my stacks of Burdas, I found this leather dress (Burdastyle 4-2011-132). It has a similar neckline, same number of skirt panels, and princess seams in the bodice that could be covered with trim like the Etro dress.
Because the inspiration dress has a sleeve, I decided to Frankenpattern this pattern with Burdastyle 2-2013-110
When I made my muslin, I used the side back and CB pieces from the leather dress, but knowing that the back dart was going to be covered with trim, I opted to use the 1 piece back from the second dress when I got to the actual dress. This only required me to change the front armscye to fit the sleeve.
To draft the trim pieces, I laid tracing paper over my pattern, copied the style lines onto the tracing paper and then made dots 1.25″ away from each line along the entire length. Using a French curve, I connected the dots and added seam allowance where it was needed (side edge of the side front trim piece, at CF, on the bottom sleeve trim edge) and allowance to press under where it was needed (edge of side front trim piece closer to CF, at CB, on both sides of the side back trim piece, on the top sleeve trim edge).
The trim I cut from extra ponte leftover from this dress. The ponte was unfortunately a tiny bit sheer against the fabric, so I interfaced the trim pieces. The side pieces are just topstitched in place, but the CF piece is a facing from the CB to the bottom of the slit. Matching the wrong side of the dress to the right side of the neck facing, I stitched from CB down to the edge of the slit, backstitching at the slit. Then I cut into the seam allowance, turned/trimmed everything, pressed it and brought the raw edge of the facing to the raw edge of each CF piece which now stuck out 5/8″ from the slit bottom since I cut into the seam allowance. Then I could bring the right sides of the facings together and seam the CF from the slit down. On the wrong side, I trimmed the cotton away from the seam allowance to a scant 3/8″, folded the ponte over the cotton, and stitched the ponte over the cotton to bind the seam.
When I cut away the fringe, I noticed that the raw edge that the fringe was attached to was serged with a tiny rolled hem that was used because this fabric frays like crazy. Because of this, I kept all of the seams at 5/8″ (I usually sew with 3/8″ SAs on wovens), so the stitching could be far away from any stray threads. This saved me later when I discovered that the back piece from the 2-2013 dress was much smaller than the back skirt. I folded out the extra fabric on the side of the skirt and pinned it down before I basted the side seams. The back waist fit fine, but the skirt gave me a great stuffed sausage sort of look. Instead, I used my French curve to blend the waist into the raw edge of the back skirt 7″ down from the waist. I then cut down my seam allowance to 1/4″ in the skirt. The extra fabric that I cheated away gave me just enough for the front pockets to lay flat and the skirt to gracefully skim my hips.
I bound the seams and hem with bias tape and seam tape on the side seams. Though it takes forever to do so, it does make for a really nice inside finish.
I sewed the sleeves with French seams–a bulky choice in this particular cotton, but they look nice and more importantly, those sleeves aren’t raveling at all.
I made a lapped zipper with some zipper tape by the yard.
The pockets are from scraps of Joel Dewberry Aviary.
My totals for this project:
vintage floral tablecloth $2.50
5/8 yard ponte@$8/yd $5.00
inspiration dress price $1,895.00
percentage savings 99.60%
My favorite kind of refashions are the ones that transform the original item into something completely different. I think I succeeded with that goal this time, and I have a vintage looking dress that I can wear easily for 2.5-3 seasons of the year. Not bad for $7.50.
Elizabeth Farr is the writer behind the Elizabeth Made This blog where she shares helpful sewing tips, step by step sewing tutorials and videos to help you explore your creativity through sewing. She has written sewing Eguides and patterns, been a featured teacher at Rebecca Page’s Sewing Summit and Jennifer Maker’s Holiday Maker Fest and her work has appeared in Seamwork and Altered Couture magazines. She also created a line of refashioned garments for SEWN Denver. When her sewing machine isn’t humming, she’s playing and teaching violin, and hanging around a good strategic board game with her husband and 4 kids.