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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.