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!


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.