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?
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
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
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.
Hack a t-shirt into a bomber jacket
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
And with all the changes, I feel confident that this one is worthy of being classified as a great thrift store refashion.
Night look: that time when fabric really does speak to you
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.
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
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.
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. There are times that you worry about sewing efficiently, and other times like this when you invest the extra time to get just what you want. 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.
Using the decorative selvages
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!
Where is lemon chiffon + blush going?
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!
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!
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.