Beaded Treasure Necklace

I admin the Altered Artwear Facebook group. We’ve been kind of inactive this year, but now that summer is over, I hope to generate more group involvement. One of the ways I do that is via informal challenges. The summer challenge was to try a technique in upcycling clothing or accessories that you’ve never tried before.

I have been making costume jewelry off and on for over 40 years. In the ’70s I worked in a mall store, piercing ears and stringing necklace, bracelet, and earring sets. Lately I’ve been missing working with beads.

This was my inspiration for the challenge: a beaded treasure necklace by Mary Ellen Merrigan.

My inspiration for my own treasure necklace

I have lots and lots of inexpensive ethnic costume jewelry. I mean LOTS. I’ve been collecting for years, especially from yard sales, thrift shops, and dollar stores. It’s much cheaper to acquire beads and charms that way. Broken jewelry? No problem when you use the components as materials for your own original creations.

Jewelry that I was willing to take apart for the components

I looked through part of my jewelry hoard and selected some items that I was willing to deconstruct. Some of the pieces were dusty and needed cleaning.

Pieces washed and rinsed

I put the pieces needing cleaning in a bowl of warm water and Dawn dishwashing liquid and swished them around. I rinsed everything and placed on paper towels to dry.

Use a towel to keep beads from rolling

I took the necklaces apart on a towel so that the beads wouldn’t roll around, and also to see them better because my little work table is black.

Use ice cube trays for beads

These ice cube trays came as a pair for 99 cents at the 99 Cents Only store. They are perfect for holding small amounts of beads. As I disassembled everything, I put the pieces in the trays. If I had to buy all that from a bead store, it would cost a fortune.

Starting with the lower strand

I have two beading boards…a one strand and a three strand. I used the Darice three strand board that I’ve had since the ’90s. I started with the bottom strand. Put masking tape or painters tape on the ends to hold your beads in place so they don’t slide off.

Stringing the necklace

I used .024 inch Beadalon bead stringing wire for stringing the beads, which is necessary for heavy beads. I only purchased the stringing wire, end cones, and toggle clasps (from Michaels). I already had the jump rings. Everything else was from the jewelry I took apart.

Three strands

Remaining beads after necklace was finished

As you can see, I still have a lot of materials left over. I also just found another bag of take apart jewelry, so I have a feeling I will be making more than one treasure necklace.

My completed beaded treasure necklace

Beaded treasure necklace detail

I’ve been wanting to create a treasure necklace for a long time, and I’m very pleased with how this one turned out. Entirely made from old earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. It was a lot of fun and not difficult to accomplish. It’s not that heavy, and I’m looking forward to wearing it because it makes me happy!


Altered Artwear Pinterest Challenge 2016

I’m the admin for the Altered Artwear group on Facebook. I create challenges for the members every few months to, well, keep us challenged. I called for our second annual Pinterest challenge, ending today, May 31. This is what I created!
pinterest challenge pin

This challenge is pretty straightforward: Choose an altered garment or accessory pin from Pinterest and do your own interpretation. I discovered last summer when we had an ongoing heat wave in southern California that I don’t own enough loose, lightweight summer dresses. Also, long flowy boho skirts are plentiful in our area thrift stores. I chose this pin because I like the light gauzy fabric of these skirts and I thought I would try making a summer dress from one.


I found this long rayon skirt in a bin in the backroom of my nearest Goodwill on 50% off night. I think I paid $2.50. It was a lengthy 42″ from waistband to hem, and being only 5’3″ myself, I could have hiked it up under my arms and it would have still been a maxi skirt on me. But the good thing about long skirts is that they have lots of fabric to work with!


I liked the lacy faux crochet band and the plastic gem detailing. And the colors! So cheerful. So summery.


The label Forbidden cracked me up. What does that mean? Am I forbidden to cut up this skirt? Will I be cursed for life? Nah, probably not. Here comes the sewing scissors!


I looked through my pattern collection and chose this Simplicity pattern from the mid-’90s because I like the V neckline and the short sleeves. Also, both front and back pieces are cut on the fold. I cut off the elastic waistband, tags, and hanger loops, spreading out the skirt inside out and pinning the front and back pattern pieces on the folds. I lined up the back seam of the skirt with the back of the dress. I pinned close to the top edge, utilizing as much fabric as possible.


I joined and overlapped the underarm seam allowances on the pattern with a pin, so the sleeves would fit properly, as I wasn’t cutting side seams.

I have a finely woven lightweight cotton print in my stash that I picked up in the L.A. garment district several years ago, and I knew it would be perfect for the sleeves and neckline facing. Using my Bernina 1260 and my Juki serger, I sewed the shoulder seams and attached the sleeves and facing. It was very quick and easy. The first gathered tier of the skirt hits under the bustline ever so perfectly, like a yoke. Like I planned it!

SK2DR Collage

Now I have a new light and flowy summer dress which only cost a few dollars and a few hours of my time. I’m ready for you, heat wave!


February Altered Artwear Challenge

I administer the Altered Artwear group on Facebook. We started off the new year with an “anything goes” challenge. I decided to make a sundress for my granddaughter Jacky. I used patterns from the book Little Girls, Big Style by Mary Abreu.


I started with some tops that no longer fit, a few heart appliques, and an old rayon dress that has some damage.


I chose this gauzy cotton top. I cut off 12″ straight across for the skirt.


Then I cut the underarm seams to make it easier to cut out the front and back bodices and pocket backs from the front and back sections, and cut the straps from the sleeves. I cut bodice lining and pocket fronts from the rayon dress.


This was all that was left of the cotton top by the time I was done cutting.


After the dress was sewn together, I centered the heart applique and stitched it down on the bodice.


Here’s a closer look at the bodice. I really like the knotted ties because they are more adjustable than a button closure. I think she will like it!


From T-Shirt to T-Skirt

AA tee shirt challenge 2015

The Altered Artwear group on Facebook had a recent t-shirt challenge, which means you take a t-shirt and change and alter it in some way. I was intrigued by this technique of turning a t-shirt into a skirt, so that is what I did…and I do like it!

I found this orange XL Old Navy shirt at the Goodwill for $1.00. I tied it up with rubber bands, and soaked it in water in a clean plastic black pail from the dollar store. (If your garment is thoroughly wet before dyeing, it will take the dye better.)

orange tee tie dye

After the t-shirt was wet, I took it out of the pail. I then added a heaping half cup of table salt and a full bottle of Scarlet Rit dye with hot water in the pail, stirring to dissolve the salt. I then placed the rubber banded t-shirt into the dye solution for about an hour, stirring it occasionally. I then emptied the pail of the dye solution and placed the dyed t-shirt in the washing machine. I washed it in cold water with a little bit of laundry detergent while it was still tied up with the rubber bands. When the wash cycle was complete, I removed the rubber bands and hung the shirt up to dry.

cutting skirt waistband

The next step was cutting the waistband. I took this thrift store tie-dyed tee and cut off the bottom six inches after cutting off the hem. I cut the hem from the orange t-shirt, and I cut off the neckband. I then cut along the shoulder seams on each side, from the neck opening straight across to the edges of the sleeves. I did not cut off the sleeve hems, but you could. I then doubled over the waistband tube, wrong sides together, and serged it to the bottom edge of the orange t-shirt.

t skirt

The waistband fits loose and comfortably, and I can always make a small slit on the inside at the seam and add a band of elastic. I like how it turned out, and I will be experimenting with this technique more in the future.

Altered Artwear Pinterest Challenge

Pinterest Challenge March 2015

I moderate a group on Facebook for creative people who enjoy altering and upcycling existing garments. Many of us are also Pinterest enthusiasts. I called for a Pinterest Challenge, encouraging members of the group to select an inspiration garment or accessory from Pinterest and create one of their own.

I have had this long sleeved, ankle length cotton purple dress for a long time. Once upon a time, I even wore it in its original state. (*shudder*…what was I thinking?) It was a thrift store purchase, but I was fond of it because (1) it’s purple, my favorite color; (2) it’s a heavyweight 100% cotton, made soft by numerous washings; and (3) it has pockets. I saved it because I thought I could restyle it and make it cooler. I call it the “Sister Wife” dress, because when I put it on, I feel like I should be in some isolated polygamist sect somewhere in the desert.

Then I pinned this inspirational photo from this blog, which is a top from the retail chain Anthropologie. It features raw edge appliques fussy cut from fabric around the neckline.

pinterest challenge 1

I decided to try out this technique on the neckline of the dress. Then while browsing on Amazon, I came across a book that features this technique by Bari J., so I bought a used copy. I went to Jo-Ann’s and bought a variety of cotton fabrics with medium to large floral motifs which could be fussy cut and used as appliques. I had some lightweight wood or bamboo buttons with floral motifs that I purchased on eBay.

book and fabric

The book has a project where the neckline is transformed by this technique. I was tempted to use fusible web, but she said don’t use glue sticks or fusible web to hold the appliques in place, just use a lot of pins. So for once, I actually followed instructions. I didn’t use the muslin underlayer because the base fabric of the dress had enough body on its own. I would definitely use it on a lighter weight fabric.

book and fabric 2

First I put the dress on, looked in a mirror, and using my handy chalk wheel, I marked the new neckline. Then I placed it on my worktable and evened it up a bit.

pinterest challenge neckline

Next I cut out a bunch of floral motifs from the fabrics, and starting at the middle back neckline, I started arranging and pinning along the chalk lines. Notice how I worked around the front buttonhole.

neckline back pinned

pinterest challenge neckline front

shoulder detail pinned

Then I stitched the motifs down, not caring about anything but keeping the motifs as flat as possible, and getting them stitched down into place. Once I had all of the appliques sewn down, I used several other colors of thread to keep passing over them. Knowing that the edges would fray, I sewed close to all of the edges. I used regular straight stitching until the final round of stitching, when I used a darning foot and dropped feed dogs to embellish with free motion stitching, accenting the petals and making swirly designs. I cut the neckline edge of the dress along the lines of the appliqued motifs and then zig-zag stitched along the entire neck edge.

front applique detail

back neckline sewn

I cut and hemmed the long sleeves to just below the elbow. I reshaped and cut the hem, making it tunic length with sidetails. (Helpful hint: draw with chalk, cut one side and then flip it over and use it as a pattern to cut the other side so they match.) I replaced the dreary plastic buttons with my pretty floral motif buttons.

altered sister wife dress

The finished dress/tunic. It looks more purple here, but it’s actually a deep plum. The process photos taken in my studio indoors more reflect the true color. I like it! I’ll be getting a lot of wear and enjoyment out of my transformed “Sister Wife” dress.