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.

Upcycled Baby Doll Dress

I like flowy tunic tops that I can wear with leggings (and boots in winter). I had a long sleeved lavender rib knit top by French Laundry in size large which was loose and comfy, but it had a few oily food stains on the lower front. I decided to make a baby doll dress or tunic from it, as it has lace detailing around the neck which makes it feminine. All three of these tops came from thrift stores. The whole project took one hour from start to finish.

Baby doll dress 1

I put the top on and marked a line a few inches under my bustline, where I wanted the seam. I laid the shirt out on my work table and drew my cutting line in chalk. I later learned that my original curve was too deep, so I have corrected my original line in black. Cutting curved lines instead of straight across is more figure flattering and less boxy. I would recommend not cutting your sides any lower than about 2-3 inches from the line at the middle. (I had to unpick my serger seams at the sides and cut out the excess fabric because it did not hang right. It might have worked if I was attaching a woven fabric skirt, but the knits just weren’t having it.)

Baby doll dress 2

Next I took a top with bead and sequin embellishment by Sonoma Life+Style in size petite large, and prepared it for becoming half of the attached skirt.

Baby doll dress 3

I cut off the sleeves so that the serged seam was still attached to the sleeve. Then I trimmed both sides to get rid of the underarm area.

Baby doll dress 4

I cut the top part of the shirt off about an inch or so below the neckline. On the right you will see where my serged seam meets the original seam. I stitched from the bottom up, easing the fabric toward the top. I left the other side open. The visible stitching on the front is where the beads and sequins have been hand sewn on. Make sure to remove any embellishments along the seam lines. I thought I got them all, but I missed one and it held up my serger stitching. (You also don’t want to risk damaging your machine or your eyes, if a needle breaks.) The former embellished front of the top will now be the center front of the dress.

Baby doll dress 5

Then I repeated the process with a second top, this one by Kathmandu Imports, size medium. It is made up of stamp printed tie dye knit squares serged together. I could have made all of my seams serged on the outside, but I decided to leave my serged seams on the inside, allowing this shirt to provide contrast and visual interest.

Baby doll dress 6

I cut the top part off and serged the left side seam from the bottom to the top. Before I cut it across the top, I held it up to the first shirt, making sure that they were both the same length.

Baby doll dress 7

Now open up both pieces, and with the right sides facing each other, pin the sides. This is very important: Serge both seams from the bottom hemmed edge up toward the top edge. If you start from the top, you may have an uneven bottom edge by the time you get there.

Baby doll dress 8

Mark the center front and the center back of the top shirt with chalk. Now with right sides together, pin the top of the skirt to the bottom of the top shirt. The seams where the two former shirts that are now the skirt join will be pinned at the front center and back center marks. The side seams will be pinned to the top’s side seams. Now serge the seam all around, being careful not to catch fabric underneath.

Baby doll dress 9

Now turn right side out, and you are done! This is a very fast and easy project, giving new life to old knit shirts, and can be made in all sizes from kids to adults. I’ve accessorized my baby doll dress with a treasure necklace I made long ago. (It looks like bleach spotting there on the dress, but it’s just the sunlight coming through my orange tree.) I wore this out dancing the other night (the same day I made it), and it was very comfy with black fleece leggings and ankle boots. Give it a try! (If you don’t have a serger, use the mock serger knit stitch on your machine.)