Saturday, 23 April 2016

Baggy jeans refashioned into a dress


These men's, hip hop style, Guess jeans have been languishing in my sewing room forever waiting for a good overhaul. The denim was pretty nice and there was a fair bit of it in those legs, despite the waist almost fitting me. I recall with a smile the skater boys sk8r boyz of the 90s getting about in similar ludicrous styles and thinking they were the beez kneez! It was time to do something with these and with the Aussie Sewing Guild's Castaway to Couture competition currently running, now was the time.

Had I known how much work it was going to be I may not have embarked on this project. I nearly scrapped it halfway through when it was a shapeless, disjointed muddle, but I'm rarely one to give up on a sewing project so I pressed on. It took many hours, but I think it turned out alright in the end. 

I believe that a successful refashion incorporates some features of the original garment into the new one. I wanted to make a dress from my jeans and, after contemplating many options, I decided to use the upper part of the jeans for the skirt and the legs for the bodice. I thought a front-opening bodice would tie in nicely with the skirt and I found this vintage Simplicity pattern with a zip front that I used to start me off. By the way, that small pile of scraps above is all I had left of the jeans when the dress was finished!

My first step was to cut off the legs leaving enough fabric for the bodice and skirt in the two sections. That first cut was a bit scary.

I then cut along the crotch seam so I could start forming the skirt. It ended up being really tricky to get the front and back centre seams of the skirt sitting nicely. I had to unpick nearly all the original seams to finally get it looking ok. Since the original waistband almost fitted me, I left that as it was. I managed to cut the bodice pieces out of the legs and the unpicked jeans cuffs became the collar. You can see the fading where the cuffs were originally turned up.

I adjusted the bodice to fit the waistband, while still fitting me, and sewed the bodice to the skirt. The button stands were cut from small scraps and their insides were pieced together as there weren't big enough pieces left! I redid the unpicked topstitching on the skirt and used similar topstitching on the bodice seams to match the original as closely as I could. The armholes were finished with bias binding, from the op shop of course. The seams above and below the armholes at the back are the original jeans seams.

The final touches were the front snaps and some rustic sashiko-style stitching here and there (with op-shop embroidery thread) for some added interest on the plain denim. The belt is the original jeans belt.

And now for some pictures!

 I just love those deep pockets. I can't keep my hands out of them!


I am so pleased that this competition pushed me into doing this refashion as it's been ages since I did one. I really enjoyed how the process evolved and changed to suit the challenges imposed by fabric quantity and existing seams. I also loved using nearly every last scrap from those jeans and embellishing with recycled bias binding and thread. The five metal snaps are the only new thing I used. I am very happy with the final dress and I look forward to wearing it proudly!

If you would like to enter the competition or see (and vote for) the entries, visit the Australian Sewing Guild Facebook page. You need to like the page to vote. Entries close 31st May 2016.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

StyleArc Tammy Dress, handstitched Alabama Chanin style

This project has been on the go for a while, which is exactly how I like it. I really enjoy having a little something to work on in the evenings or while on holiday.

I dyed the fabric, a white 100% cotton knit, with indigo last year at the studio of Trudi Pollard. In my enthusiasm, I forgot to pre-soak the fabric in water and added it dry to the dye pot. This is not recommended as it introduces air into the vat. However, it did produce this lovely splotchy blue and white pattern as the dye penetrated the scrunched up fabric.

I just love that faded denim colour.

I used the StyleArc Tammy dress pattern as it's one of my favourite patterns. I used two layers of fabric in the dress, the blue on the outside and the same fabric in plain white on the inside. They were treated as one piece and handsewn together to create the dress. This gives the dress more structure. I used navy blue embroidery thread for the topstitching.

The neckline is finished with a strip of fabric folded over the raw edge and stitched in place with a decorative stretch handstitch. I have taken to basting the neckband on by machine before the hand sewing as I find it easier to stretch the band while machine sewing it. It's quite hard to stretch the band enough while hand sewing. This way the band sits nicely and doesn't flip out. I removed the machine basting afterwards.

The neckline is also embellished with tiny blue and white beads sewn in a random pattern. I had to hunt down my tiniest needle to fit through the beads. The beads are sewn all the way around the neckline, none of that RTW only-on-the-front nonsense!

The sleeves were finished by turning under and hand stitching in place.

The hemline edge was left raw and I stitched three narrow strips of fabric above the hem with little pleats here and there and a few beads to catch the light. This ruffled technique is one I've long admired from Natalie Chanin's books.

I was rather sad when this project came to an end. I kept thinking of new embellishments I could add, but decided that there was enough going on as it was. This was very quick for an Alabama Chanin project as there was no applique. I have done a reverse applique project before but I think this plainer design probably suits my lifestyle better. It doesn't stop me drooling over Alabama Chanin applique though, most notably Carolyn's beautiful outfit she posted a few days ago, which is probably the best I've seen anywhere.

Happy Stitchin!

Monday, 4 April 2016

StyleArc Toni Designer Dress

My sewing projects usually start with the pattern, but in this case it was the fabric. I found this rather dramatic fabric at the op shop a few months ago. There was over 3m and I snapped it up excitedly. Over the ensuing months I periodically draped myself in the fabric and pranced in front of the mirror. I envisioned something long and flowy and fabulous. I wanted a dress like those gorgeous ones made by Amanda Valentine in Season 13 of Project Runway (pictures via Tom and Lorenzo):

Amanda Valentine Finale Collection
Amanda Valentine Finale Collection
I searched my pattern collection and magazines. Nothing. I scoured real-life and online pattern shops. Where were the drapey and dazzling maxi dresses? Then finally, I found this: the StyleArc Toni Designer Dress. It definitely had potential and the more I investigated it, the more I liked it. After much pondering I eventually bought the paper pattern and was very excited to see if my vision could become a reality.

If you would like to buy the PDF version of this pattern from Gumroad, you can get a 20% discount by clicking on the affiliate link above and adding the code meggipeg20 when you make your purchase.

The dress is quite unusual and reminiscent of a Japanese design with the shaped sides that drape towards the hemline. I imagine these could look quite different in a thicker fabric, or they could be left off and the sides straightened for a more conservative look. There are pockets in the side seams too.


The other lovely feature of this dress is the collar. It is interfaced to stand up and frame the face, 

or can be folded down for a more casual look.

The most difficult part of making this dress was the collar, but that really wasn't too hard. The rest was super quick and easy. 

This fabric was a bit slippery to work with, especially at the cutting-out stage. I thought about the placement of the gigantic flowers before I cut and I think they turned out to be quite well located.

So, my vision. Did I get my Amanda Valentine-esque flowy dress? I do believe I did! When I first made it I wasn't sure if I liked it, but after strutting around the house in it for a bit, I quickly changed my mind. It feels amazing to wear and I think (hope!) it would turn a few heads if I find a fitting occasion to wear it. Fancy sewing meet-up anyone?

Don't forget the 20% discount on this pattern from StyleArc with the code meggipeg20.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Marie Gathered Midi Dress - Named Royals Collection

I was very excited to be a pattern tester for this dress as it is quite different from my usual style. I usually tend towards casual shift dresses and shirt dresses, so this fun and frilly frock was quite a departure from that. This is the Marie Gathered Midi Dress from the Named SS16 Royals Collection

Marie Gathered Midi Dress - Named
You may be thinking that my dress is looking rather less than midi length and you would be correct. I initially made it longer, but decided I preferred it above the knee. I shortened it at the waistline so I didn't have to redo the frill. There is a picture of the original dress further on.

This pattern has some lovely design features. The neckline and waist are elasticated and there are lines of elastic at the elbows and cuffs. Then there's the frill at the hemline. This is such a comfortable dress to wear as it's all stretchy and the sleeves can be worn pushed up or down.

You could even wear it off the shoulder if you were so inclined.

I used a light cotton fabric with a cute bird print from Textile Traders to make this dress. I was careful choosing the print as I didn't want it to be too large and overwhelming as there's a fair bit of fabric in the dress. Having said that, I had no trouble cutting the dress from 2.5m of 150cm wide fabric. The fabric hangs well and is lovely to wear. The belt is an obi-style one that I made from silver faux leather. 

Here is the dress before I shortened it and without a belt. I took the side seams in a bit on the final, shortened version too.

So there we are, a gathered and shortened midi dress. And the verdict on the style? I really like it. It's so easy to wear and I keep reaching for it when I'm going out for lunch or dinner. I've worn it several times already. So get on over and check out the lovely patterns of the new SS16 Named collection. I've got my eye on the Beatrix dress and Eleonora skirt. I've also made the Marie dress as a blouse. Stay tuned!

Thank you to Saara and Laura for another very enjoyable and professional round of pattern testing. You are the best xx

Madeleine Bow Tie Blouse - Named Royals Collection

I love pattern testing for Named and this was the first of two pieces I tested for the brand new SS16 Royals Collection. This is the Madeleine Bow Tie blouse. Stay tuned for the Marie Dress, to be blogged soon!

I made my usual size 40 according to the size chart and the fit of this is absolutely spot on. It is slim-fitting, but just right and no pulling across the shoulders. 

When I first saw the picture of this blouse, I wasn't sure quite how the yoke detail worked. It is actually trimmed with ribbon or piping which is pressed away from the yoke to give this interesting, three dimensional effect. The collar is also trimmed with ribbon with extra length for a bow.

I used a white cotton woven fabric for the blouse and blue polka dot ribbon trim. The pattern calls for 4cm (1.5") wide ribbon that is folded in half and sewn to the yoke. I had trouble finding ribbon I liked in the 4cm wide category so, after standing for so long in the Spotlight ribbon aisle that they thought I'd moved in, I bought 2.2cm (7/8") wide ribbon instead and sewed two lengths together (wrong sides facing). This worked perfectly. The neckline trim is supposed to be a single ribbon 1-1.5cm wide and I found matching 1cm ribbon, so that was good. 

Regarding the ribbon I would say: don't stress if you can't find matching 4cm and 1.5cm ribbon, just buy a 1.5-2cm wide ribbon that you love and use it everywhere. 

The cuff is gathered and elegant and features four buttons. This is not a garment to be thrown off quickly in the throes of passion, but the prettiness of the cuffs makes up for that!

I would say that this is a project for someone with some sewing experience, but it is not difficult and the instructions are very helpful. Here are a few more pictures:


Some full-length pictures, worn with my Named Jamie jeans:

With the neck open...

...and the sleeves rolled up!

This is a fun and elegant design that gives a fresh take on an ordinary blouse. I love it!


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