“Tea for Two” – a Pair of Re-fashioned Cafe Aprons

It’s been a while since I’ve done my favorite type re-fashion: turning a skirt into an apron.  I can only go for so long before I feel the “need” to do a re-use and re-fashion project.  In 2013, a family member’s birthday had given me the perfect reason to sew up a duo of ‘skirt re-fashioned aprons’ – one as a present to give away and one for myself.

These aprons are not your normal aprons.  They are super feminine, fun, and classy frilly kind which only add to whatever you happen to already be wearing.  Being mostly white, and with some amazing embroidery, these aprons deserve to be worn to be seen!

Below is the apron I made for my own use and fun!



FABRIC:  The primary fabric used for both aprons was a fancy ‘Ann Taylor’ brand embroidered “Tea for Two” border print skirt.  The skirt is a stretch cotton which was lined nicely, as well.  The tops of both aprons are from small cuts of fabric – the gift apron’s top is 1/2 yard of a checked poly blend and my top half is a quilting ‘fat quarter’ square.  All other fabrics needed for the aprons came in still smaller potions, like the pockets or lining for my top bib. These fabrics were from my stash of random bits and scraps.

NOTIONS:  All notions – lace trims, thread, buttons, ribbons, and decoration came from on hand.

PATTERN:  None!  I made it all work as I went along.

THE INSIDES:  Not a single raw edge is showing. Every seam is self-covered or finished nicely by some sort of ribbon, lace, or bias tape.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The first apron I made (with the checkered bib) was the one to be given as a present.  It was made in 4 hours and finished on September 4, 2013.  The second apron, the one for me with the aqua bib, was made on October 10, 2013, in about 5 hours.

TOTAL COST:  The cafe themed skirt was bought from Goodwill, a resale store, for only $4.00, and with everything else coming from on hand, each apron only cost $2.00!

The first step was to divide the skirt into two along the side seams.  I pinned along each side, and sewed the skirt and its lining together 1 inch away from the side seams before cutting.  I did save the invisible zipper from the side, but after my one bad experience I don’t know if I’ll really use it.  Then I finished off the new side edges in white bias tape, preserving the skirt’s original waistband and letting the lining hang free between the sides. Now I had two half aprons ready for bib tops to become full coverage aprons.

100_1958     Choosing the fabric styling for the two different bibs of the aprons was quite fun and made us think about different ways to take a theme and cater that to individual tastes.  Since the “give-away apron” was for hubby’s mother, I let him pick the theme and the fabric (with my approval, as I am the seamstress) for her apron.  He chose a black and white check fabric, which I thought fit well for the French cafe theme.  The check fabric was rather thin (I think it was meant for tablecloths) so I took the 1/2 yard the we bought and folded it in fourths for a nice, thick, stable apron top half that no stain could escape through.  As you can see above, the sides were finished off in lace hem tape, the top edge is on the fold and the bib bottom was folded in and lap stitched to the skirt waistband.  For my apron’s top bib, I took the fat quarter square and cut off two large but skinny rectangles from each side to turn it into a smaller square.  I took those two rectangles cut off the side to be the ties/back closure.  The bib and the ties were faced with regular white cotton from my stash.  This step is why my apron took slightly longer to make than the first one. The bottom of the bib was like the first, turned under and lapped to the skirt waistband.  My bib was sewn differently though – I found the top center, made two vertical lines of shirring stitches down for about 5 inches, and gathered them up to create complimentary bust shaping out of a plain square.

100_3875     Picking out the decorations for the aprons was the really creative part of making the finishing touches.  The present apron received a handmade lace and button flower on the bib corner.  My apron had a vintage looking cameo sewn onto it.  The cameo was originally part of a hair decoration which I had bought many years ago but never worn.  I had it in my stash of jewelry making supplies, hoping to glue on a pin back and turn it into a brooch, 100_1957but I like it much better on my apron.

100_1954     Both aprons were treated to a large single pocket on the right side of the wearer.  They were made from a scrap of black cotton in my stash, layered over with what had been a uselessly small scrap of lace.  Luckily, all I had left of this lace was the beautiful bordered edge, which was aligned along the pocket top.

100_1956a100_3873     Each apron has its own unique and special way of closing and staying on oneself.  I personally have a general dislike for the “normal” neck closures on most bought aprons, where they have single neck ties which pull and hang down from the back of your neck – like a reverse of choking.  Thus, I prefer to find ways where an apron can lay comfortably over one’s shoulders.  The gifted apron was made with ultra-long ties so that they can be crossed over each other at the center back, go through loops at the sides of the waistband, and tie center back.  See my post on my “re-fashioned heart apron”, where I’ve already utilized this X-back closure method.  For my own apron, I came up with my own idea for another kind of comfy over the shoulder closure.  I did not have long ties to use in the first place since I had started off with a fat quarter.  So I made two self-faced ties and sewed them together into a V-shape, with just enough extra to sew under the ends into a loop.  In my stash, there was a beautiful sheer aqua ribbon, which became my waistband.  The ribbon center stays in the loop under my V-shaped neck band, then it gets run through two loops on each side corner of the waistband.  I know it might sound complicated but just look at my picture and hopefully you’ll see that it’s actually very easy, and also extremely comfy and uniquely personal.

100_3881a     All the lace that went onto both aprons came in entirety from a box of vintage lace and eyelet given to me by my Grandmother.  I feel like it makes my aprons so much more memorable to use some familial notions from one seamstress in the family (my Grandmother) to another (me).  My Grandmother’s lace provides a neat connection to the extended family ties joined together through hubby.  My mother-in-law has a handmade project made by me, chosen by my hubby, made using a re-fashion method thought up by my mom, and decorated with lace from my dad’s mother.  All the family is brought together in one apron – and I have the other half!

french-cafe-flappers     Besides all of these reasons to make my aprons special, anything that reminds me of my time in Paris, France (thirteen years ago, by now) definitely brings a smile to my face a warm feeling in my heart.  Ah yes, there’s nothing life those French cafe “friandises” (sweet treats), especially when a pastry shop was at the bottom floor of our Parisian hotel!  Stopping at a cafe was the perfect way to burn off mid-day afternoon “siesta” time in the rest of Europe, too…a time to kick back, completely unwind, and look around at the dramatic opera of life going on around you.  To me, “cafe time” is time for good memories, good treats, and good company!

‘Lady in Lace’ – an Early 1920’s Tea Dress

Flapper lace 20s dress at designerwallace     Amongst all the products in the world of fabric and textiles, there is nothing quite like lace which has stood through every century as an icon for everything about being feminine.  Lace especially meant more in the 20’s, as a sort of compliment by contrast, when the silhouette of the era was straight and boyish but the fabric and trim used was supremely beautiful.  This combination of the female “garconne” is most appealing to me in the flowing all lace “afternoon tea” dresses which were popular in the early 1920’s, such as the old original pictured at left.  Such early 20’s dresses hint at so much, they are irresistible – hinting at color by the under-dress while still staying muted, hinting at skin by being all lace but not really showing much, and hinting at freedom by wearing an unconfined and free form but still looking womanly.

Every year I make a special dress as a birthday “present” to myself, and year 2013 birthday dress was my special version of those early 1920’s all lace “afternoon tea” dress combinations.  My lace 20’s dress with contrast under dress was ridiculously easy to make and is incredible to wear.  Worn with my large summer woven linen hat, my dress sets the tone for the few years in the early 20’s when the fashions from the previous decade (Titanic-era) were clinging on before giving way to the full-fledged flapper of Prohibition times (circa 1922).  This has been my go-to dress for fancy summertime occasions – garden parties and tea rooms…here I come!

100_1780THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The lace is a stretch polyester fabric, so inauthentic, I know, but it was on sale on top of being on clearance.  I bought what was left on the bolt, which was just enough to make into a tablecloth, with 2 yards to spare to make my lace 20’s dress.  As for my under dress, I used a 100% polyester interlock in a mint green color.  The interlock knit was a small 1 1/2 yard cut that had been floating around in my stash for what seems like forever.

NOTIONS:  I had everything I needed for this project, basically only thread.  I had a small 7 inch piece of cotton lace leftover from this Thanksgiving project, and that lace went across the front of my under dress so I could be able to tell it from the back 🙂  See picture below.

PATTERNS:  The dress was made using a modern pattern Butterick #5522, year 2010.  The under dress is more authentic, as I used a Past Pattern No. 501, “Ladies and Misses 1920’s Combination Undergarment”.  I used this Past Pattern No. 501 once before to make these tap pants.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  For both the lace dress and the dress underneath, it took me about 5 hours or less to complete.  Both were finished by August 13, 2013.

THE INSIDES:  The side seams of the lace dress are in French seams, and the neckline is bound in a bias faced lace band.  The under dress is also entirely in French seams (excepting hems, of course).

TOTAL COST:  My interlock knit for the under dress was in my stash for so long, let’s consider it free – and a relief at that to find a use for it, finally!  The lace was bought from Hancock Fabrics for about 80 cents a yard. (Yes, you read that price right…cheap, huh?)  So my total was $4.00.

At first, I had a very hard time deciding what color and length the under dress shouldFrench-chiffon&lace-dress-c_1923-from-the-Vintage-Textile-archives become to make the certain ‘look’ I wanted.  Originally, I was inspired to make this lace 20’s project because of ‘The Historical Fortnightly 2013’ challenge sponsored by Leimomi “The Dreamstress”.  She had a “White” challenge (#15) in the summer, and then she was having a “Green” challenge (#21) later on in October.  I did try out a long white under dress, which I made using the same pattern as for the lace dress, but it made me seem like I was in a bridal outfit.  For some reason, Leimomi’s two challenges appealed to me together, especially when she posted an inspiration “Green” garment like this one at right, dating to 1923.  The final inspiration which helped me decide on going with my mint green color was, ironically, an outfit from a Rose's lace and green day dress combodecade older – a costume dress worn by the character Rose in the 1997 movie “Titanic”.  Thus, my dress is long and skinny, sort of like the “hobble skirt” fashion of the 1910 era, while still having the straight, no-waist, sleeveless style of the early 20’s.  I get the best of both decades with my short 1920’s combination under dress and my coral colored accessories (vintage scarf as a belt and my over-sized hat), just like Rose from “Titanic”.

Just to clarify my use of the term tea gown, I would like to reference to two blog posts from Leimomi “The Dreamstress”.  According to her terminology post (link here) my gown should technically not be called a tea gown.  However, reading the characteristics of tea gowns makes it more of a perfect sense thing to apply that title to this lace creation of mine.  Except for the “wrapper-style” category, my dress outfit certainly has ‘gorgeous materials’, a ‘dress that gets worn over an under-dress’, and an ‘ease of entry’ dressing method.  The ‘slip-on’ feature, to be worn without a constricting corset, of a tea gown is what designates it for the afternoons.  Leimomi’s “Rate the Dress” post from here also mentions the extra fact of the pastel colors of many tea gowns.  If I can check off most all the boxes in the tea gown category, when it comes to my lace dress ensemble, I am confident in using it in my title.  I’ve made another new type of historical garment!

100_1789     I really loved making the under dress.  The first time I made this pattern #501 from Past 100_1794Patterns (when I made tap pants from it), I had the feeling I was going to love this pattern in general, and, boy was I right.  The sizing is perfect – what size seems to be your size will be your right size when it is made.  All the pieces that I have made from the pattern sew together quickly and easily.  It is much appreciated how my under dress turned out so decent, covering up my lingerie straps.  The only tiny alteration to the slip dress was to make two small tucks under the armpits at the top of the bodice.  Those tucks bring in the bodice to fit the bust just a bit better, only remember this would not be possible in a woven material.

Using up my small remnant of lace to mark the front really made my day, as well.  I love to be able to find a way to find a useful purpose for every small bit of what I have on hand!  The little bit of lace also seems to connect the under dress with the over dress, in a ‘themed’ sort-of-way.

For my lace over dress, I was actually experimenting with the fit of Butterick 5522.  Finding the perfect basic shift dress is a little challenging to find, and I wanted B5522 to be one of those “basics”.  Reading the finished garment measurements tipped me off to a perfect fit – this pattern runs very small.  I had to go up a size for everything.  I’ve only had to do this once before, for this dress, and then that was only because I was converting a stretch pattern to be made into a woven fabric.  Generally, I tend to make pattern sizes 8/10, but for B5522 I had to use a 12/14, otherwise it would have been a snug fit which is not the way the dress looks like on the envelope cover’s model.  Now that I know how the dress fits, I can’t wait to make the cover dress with those amazing sleeves.

100_1784     To make the most of my fabric, I folded the lace selvedges into the center of my 60″ lace fabric, so I could cut out the front and back out of only two yards.  The sleeve edges of the B5522 pattern were extended just a few inches so my dress would extend over my shoulders while still being sleeveless.  B5522 doesn’t call for a bias faced neckline – I added this feature because it is always such a clean and professional method of edge finishing.  Two long strips were cut out of my lace, so I could double up the neckline facing.  Lace is so thin and I needed a stable neckline to support the rest of my dress and create a shapely frame for my face.  However, I really didn’t like the open, oval neckline that I ended up with – it is a nice neckline but it did not look at all good on my lace dress.  I was tempted to create a square neckline, but, in the end, I stitched two rows of loose stitches down the center so as to pull the neck into a gathered V-neck (see picture).

In the close-up picture above, you can see in detail how my lace is a really interesting mix of shapes and designs, all put together in a sort of geometric crazy quilt method.  I know my lace isn’t authentic, but all those geometric shapes (mostly hexagons and parallelograms) are the base ideas behind the Art Deco movement of the 20’s and 30’s.  As if I didn’t have enough lace, I also wore my vintage crocheted lace gloves with my outfit…they have geometric shapes on them, too!

100_1785100_1788     I could see having my dress a long, ankle length, being a bit too much, so I wanted to find some way of adding interest and shortening the hem, if only temporarily.  My Hubby came up with the idea of a kind of tie that could pull up/gather the bottom of the dress hem.  I took his great idea just a bit further by making the hem ties out of small 12 inch cuts of random leftover lace trim pieces from my stash.  There are two hem ties: one at 15 inches above the hem, and another at 29 inches above the hem.  Both ties are on the left side.  In the pictures at left and above, you can see my dress gathered up from the lowest level lace tie.  You can almost see the center back seam in the left picture.  My preference would have been to eliminate that center back seam, but it is needed because the two back pieces are shaped nicely and cannot be put on the fold.

I truly feel very cool and comfy buy oh-so-pretty in this early 1920’s inspired ensemble.  It has a different style that is a slight departure from the classic “flapper” ideal, but still apparently vintage, while also being fresh and modern.  That’s a lot for a dress!  Whenever I wear this outfit, it always seems to garner compliments, then astonishment, when I briefly explain how it was easy, simple, and cheap.  More women need to make a dress like this for themselves…it is perfect for all skill levels and is absolutely wonderful to wear.  What could be more fail proof than that?!

100_1775     The luxurious public garden where we took these pictures couldn’t help but remind me of the backdrop of a work of art.  I felt like I was in a perfect dream world, or maybe just coming to life out of a painting by James Tissot, where there are plenty of details and interesting settings.  Please visit my Flickr page, at Seam Racer, for more close-ups and great pictures loaded soon of my lace 20’s outfit at the garden.


Prohibition? Bah! Time for a Mid-20’s Speakeasy Party Dress

In the history of America, the thirteen years (1920 to 1933) during which citizens were meant to go dry from alcoholic liquids unintentionally became a time for much of the opposite to sobriety.  The era of the “flapper-and-gangster” cocktail drinking crowd was born, and flagrant law-breaking lived alongside the sober and those that loved fun times.

I’ve always loved the history of the 1920’s and 30’s, but recently learned a whole lot more about what was going on in those eras thanks to the exhibit “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition”, from the National Constitution Center.  The engrossing exhibit came to our town’s History museum for a number of months, and I visited several times, wanting to go more just to soak in all the info.  To close the last week of the “American Spirits” exhibit, our History museum put on a “Speakeasy” party, which happened to fall on a special day for me -my birthday.  I had to attend, and go all out I did!  Behold my official, mid-1920’s satin evening party dress!

100_3453aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  My fabric is a semi-dull satin, with a pearlized swirl-type of buff finish across the fabric in random places.  The hammered finish on the satin gives it a sort of “ice cold” beauty.  It is in a deep turquoise color, and unfortunately, the fiber content is 100% polyester.  The lace neck shawl is made from a deep forest green stretch lace.  This lace has 1/3 of the flowers as shiny and satiny, but all the flowers are raised in an embossed-style.  Both fabrics are from Hancock Fabrics. 

NOTIONS:  Everything needed was on hand already.  I had the right color thread (I seem to do so much sewing in turquoise) and lightweight interfacing.  The gold buttons to bring in the dress at the hips were bought on a deep sale a few months before my Prohibition dress was made. The deep green and gold back neck closure button came from my hubby’s Grandmother’s stash. (See left picture, to see my detailed photo of the back button and my little spit curls which I stuck down to my skin with hair goop!


Simplicity 4138 back line and front drawingPATTERNS:  My good old standby pattern for making a basic 20’s shift was used again here – Butterick 6140, year 2004 (at left).  This pattern was previously used to make my “Geometric Lines” 20’s tunic.  For my Prohibition dress, I made view G, with the V-neck and the mid-length, except the sleeves were omitted.  Simplicity 4138 pattern (at right), skirt bottom piece of view D, was used to make the two bias flounces for the side of my dress.

B6140TIME TO COMPLETE:  In total, my dress took only 6 to 8 hours to make, and it was finished on August 8, 2014.

THE INSIDES:  Couture touches are everywhere on this dress’ inside.  The entire neckline, shoulder, and armhole openings are covered by a giant one pieced facing which was tricky to sew in, but very nice once finished.  My dress’ side seams are French seams, the bottom hem of both the flounces are done in tiny, time-consuming 1/8 inch hems.  100_3459a

TOTAL COST:  This was an unexpected project, and the materials were a bit more pricy because I wanted something with fine quality and historical accuracy to match with the idea in mind of how I wanted my final creation to turn out.  Everything was on sale, but, even still, I believe the total cost to be no more than $27.00.  This is pretty reasonable, I think, especially since it’s nice as an all-year-round fancy party dress – not just for drinking liquor on the sly “a la 1920’s”!

This dress was the product of much research and inspiration.  My dress’ style of satin has the look and feel of what was popular as a dressy fabric for the 20’s, excepting the fact that it is not a silk like what would have been used back then.  I have always loved the popular asymmetric styled dresses of the 20’s and 30’s, so making something with that design was definitely in mind for my speakeasy dress. In the end, I took a little bit of everything that I liked, and everything which seemed to fit in for the dress, both appearance wise and from the standpoint of a fashion historian.  Here at right is a collage of all my inspiration pictures which explain and justify the authenticity of my Prohibition dress.  Starting from the top left and going clockwise:  a 1922 silk crepe dress by Madeleine Vionnet (Arizona Costume Institute);   the cover envelope of a late 20’s printed McCall pattern #5628;  a bias seamed (Vionnet-style) dress from a French fashion catalog;  a “mid-20’s slip on dress” #925 reprinted and sold by Past Patterns;  and finally, another inspiration collagefashion image from the late 20’s (’27 or ’28).  As you can see, my five different inspiration sources are dating between 1922 to 1928.  However, the main features of my dress, especially the way it poufs out above where it hugs my hips, is a tell-tale shape which would constitute calling my dress a mid- to late-20’s creation.  Thus, I can confidently say that my dress is historically accurate, with the exception of the fabric content, while staying true to my own personal style and taste.  To me, finding such a perfect combination is a match made in heaven.  It’s like finding a little bit of yourself in a historical time past…the true greatness of sewing your own vintage wear.

The basic dress was easily and rather quickly made according Butterick 6140.  Just like when I made it the first time, going down a size from what the chart (on the pattern envelope) shows gave me a perfect fit.  In other words, Butterick 6140 runs generously.  Once compensating for the sizing, it has wonderful proportions for smaller women who don’t have too drastic bust-waist-hip measurements.  Also, when doing the upper inside facings, it is important to follow the directions on the instruction sheet – they might seem a bit strange and complicated, at first.  However, as long as I followed through, Butterick 6140’s facings turned out great, despite being a bit time consuming.  The method for putting in the facing is really pretty smart, too.  It not only makes for a beautifully smooth feel on your skin inside the dress, but it also teaches a good lesson on how to do such a facing method.  Another project I will post about soon ended up needing the knowledge I learned from doing Butterick 6140’s style of facing.  It does come in handy to know.

100_3456a     I intended on having the bias flounces begin to fall from about mid to high thigh, and take up a little less than half of one side of my dress.  Using the bottom bias flounce piece of view D from Simplicity 4138 was an easy solution that gave me everything I had hoped to achieve.  I changed up (just a bit) the cutting of the flounce piece.  The one edge directed to be placed on the fold to end up with a flounce twice as big.  However, the pattern piece was the width and length I needed as it was, so I did not cut it on the fold, but cut two single pieces, still keeping to the grain line as directed.  Both flounces were first hemmed in a time-consuming 1/8 hem (like what I did for the sleeves of my 30’s evening gown), then turn under the seam allowance on the other three sides.  I did a good deal of measuring to make sure the flounces would be evenly placed before sewing them down to the dress’ left side using a double-stitched lapped seam.100_3406

Hopefully, you can see how the flounce piece looked and how I cut it out in the picture at right.

100_3935     For the hip cinching, I made two small pinches in the satin of my dress on each hip side 1 1/2 inches away from the side seam.  A small one inch piece of turquoise bias tape was sewn to the inside of all four of those pinches.  On each side, the forward pinch had the two buttons sewn on, and the back pinch got two self-fabric satin loops slipped under the bias 100_3934tape piece.  I don’t know if this method is historical but it seems practical, simple, and, best of all, it works!  I just slip on my dress, then button it in to fit my hips. You can see in the big picture above the hip buttons and the perfect 20’s “bloused” effect they cause.

As much as I like the beauty of simplicity, the dress needed the lace neck/shoulder drape to give it that sudden “wow” effect, making it go from nice to elegant.  Credit for the drape idea entirely goes to my hubby.  He draped it as you see it on my dress, draped/gathered starting from one side of the V-neck.  Although I was skeptical at first, I soon had to admit it looked pretty darn good.  To shape the scarf, I took a rectangle of lace fabric, 15 inches by 60 inches, sewed the long raw edges in so it turns into a long ‘tube’.  Next, I folded my lace ‘tube’ scarf in half, and half again.  Both shoulders needed self-fabric satin piping tubes to be sewn on them to keep the lace scarf in place around my neck and shoulders (you can see the piping loops in my close-up pictures).  The lace scarf (folded in fourths) was pulled through the shoulder tubing and down the front of my dress, and over horizontally to be tucked under the neck.  Then the scarf ends were hand-tacked down along the neckline edge from the shoulder to the middle of the V-neck.  This process is hard to explain – it just kind of happened and worked out easily without too much fussing.  I love how the lace scarf can be worn around my neck or just over the shoulder, for two options on one dress.  My dress has already been through a trip through the wash machine, and the good report is the lace scarf held up and is still in place just fine, with the satin being almost wrinkle free.  Easy care requirements make this dress even more wonderful.

100_3462a     The night of the Prohibition “Speakeasy” party, the “American Spirits” exhibit was also open later than normal.  I took this opportunity to pose at the exhibit’s “police line-up” wall.  Yes, you read that right!  You can line up with the likes of Al Capone and Lucky Luciano, Prohibition era gangsters, and get your mug shot taken.  I wanted to show a bit of attitude in my picture.  I’ll title it, “Hey, boys, you have any room for me?”

Kelly'sPoliceLineupPhoto     I splurged for the “Speakeasy” party and used my prized Art Deco 1920’s purse for the 100_3650anight.  This purse is an amazing work of art – heavily beaded (in both pearls and glass micro-beads), lined in gold silk, with a “Made in Belgium, Saks Fifth Avenue” label.  It needs some tender loving care, but I’d rather not ruin its historical authenticity by adding something modern that probably wouldn’t match anyway.  To think, I only paid $5.00 for this purse!

100_3923   My other personal accessories – my bracelet and my hair comb – were made by me for my outfit.  I chose to buy 1/4 of a yard of gold, jeweled, square chain dress trim, cut the length in half, hand-stitched the two pieces side by side, then added on a ribbon piece (from my stash) to each end. Voila! I now have a Deco bracelet that cost me only $1.00.  My hair ornament is merely a basic hair comb onto which I whip-stitched a gold filigree metal piece that had been in my stash of beading supplies.  The comb gave my hair an authentic and beautiful option to the over-used “head band” look so popular for an easy 20’s up-do.  My hair…oh!  I was so proud of the tight Marcel waves and spit curls I achieved by only using a small curling iron and some moderate hold hairspray.  My earrings (see a close-up in this post) are actually 1930’s vintage, but they have a classic Art Deco styling which matched well with the rest of my outfit.100_3729

Speaking of matching with my outfit, I’d like to make a point of briefly highlighting how the wall sconce light (in the top left corner of my full shot pictures) is a cool era 100_3728appropriate touch.  Our house (and neighborhood) was built around 1930 in a style unique to our town, a 20th century Gingerbread version of Tudor revival, with plenty of vitrolite glass and special touches, such as these “bat wing” wall sconces.  I love how these wall sconces have a slight tinge of pastel colors, with beautiful mix of the  swirling, floral theme of Art Nouveau, and a hint of Art Deco .

Please check my Flickr page, Seam Racer, for more pictures.  Thanks for joining me in this Prohibition party post!

From “Plain” to “Pretty”: My Grey T-Shirt Re-fashion

“Plain Jane” is just fine and has its place, but why accept just that when it means having a clothing item sit unworn in my closet?!?  Using a new Simplicity pattern release #1463, I have re-worked a plain, ill-fitting, RTW T-shirt into a top with the year’s latest design using a new Simplicity pattern release, #1463.  A few variances to the pattern were necessary on account of fit and my personal taste, but I love the finished result.  I think it’s better than the original design.

The last time I re-fashioned a T-shirt was a while ago, and it turned into a jazzy, sequined, casual/fancy top (see the blog here).  That sequin top is fun yet not something to be worn for romping around in nor for any season.  This summer, I have found myself making more casual, everyday clothes (mostly vintage) so I am ecstatic to have added to my small wardrobe of me-made play clothes with this grey T-shirt re-fashion.  Besides all of my just mentioned reasons, it really feels good to make something on trend for a change of pace, in between sewing up vintage pieces from every decade of the 20th century.  Sewing a modern project keeps me in line with reality.

What better place to wear my T-shirt re-fashion than to the lake for some fun in the sun!

100_3296a     Here I am at a family outing to Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park.  This park definitely has it all: the largest natural lake in Missouri, an archery range, an 18 hole golf course, several playgrounds, a natural waterfall down the bluffs, conservation areas, a path connecting to the Katy Trail, and tennis courts, just to name a few highlights.  Usually there are a good number of very cheery and colorful boats on the water, and it gives a mid-western living gal like me a chance to feel the sand between my toes and see more water than normal.  There even was a photography team on the beach, taking pictures of a young lady modeling a sundress, and that got me in the mood to do some posing, as well 🙂


FABRIC:  The T-shirt that was the basis for my re-fashion came from Target, and was bought on clearance for $3 or less about 10 to 12 years ago.  It is a grey heather-ed, mostly cotton stretch knit tee.  The stretch polyester lace for my re-fashion comes from Hancock Fabrics

NOTIONS:  The only notion I needed was matching grey thread, which I had on hand already…yay!Simplicity 1463 cover

PATTERN:  Simplicity 1463, year 2014

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This top seemingly went together relatively fast.  It took me about 5 hours, from start to finish, but it would have taken less time without adding in the lace into the sides (which I’ll address later on).  It was finished on July 5, 2014. 

THE INSIDES:  I kept as much of the original seams as I could, since the top had neatly serged edges, many with thin strips of clear elastic sewn into them.  As I don’t have a serger, and prefer time-honored and couture seam finishes myself, keeping the serged edges is something different.  Any edges that were raw are merely double zig-zagged over.  The knit tee fabric and the stretch lace don’t fray, so the edges needed only to be kept from rolling.    

TOTAL COST:  Since, as I mentioned above, the T-shirt was bought so long ago, I’m considering it free.  The lace was my only expense, and, as I bought less than a yard at discount, I believe the total cost to be $4.00 or less.

100_3225a    The only reason I made this project was mainly because I wanted to make the pattern, but was determined to use what was on hand.  I also needed one of those quickly satisfying impulse projects to help me through a spell of harder, more complicated sewing endeavors.  The opportunity to do another re-fashion got my creative blood running quicker – I love re-fashions and hadn’t done one in quite some time.  See the “before re-fashion” picture at left of the original tee.

What better place to search for RTW item to re-purpose than the dark, quiet, and unworn clothes corner of my closet racks downstairs.  If my grey T-shirt could talk, I can bet it is glad to find a new life as long it meant it gets loved and worn, rather than going to a thrift store.  I’m happy to get something new to wear without going shopping or really buying fabric (except for a small cut of lace).  I remember my mom, at the time I bought my T-shirt, commenting how it would make a good “around the house” top.  However, it was uncomfortably too tight fitting, but, at the same time, the paid price was too cheap to sensibly return.  Thus, it never got worn…just stashed away for a future re-purposing.  I’ll bet if many people did this same thing of repairing/tailoring/re-fashioning to the part of their closet that never gets worn, we wouldn’t get a “fast fashion” culture which is overwhelmed by too many unwanted cheap clothes.  Ladies from war times, especially WWII era, learned the hard way how to “make do and mend”.  It’s a pity that the beautiful, quality clothes, like vintage items, are the ones that are scarce and falling apart from age, thus oftentimes relegated to museums.

100_3282a     Not meaning to digress here, but now that I’ve explained the ‘why’ of my project, I’ll get to the ‘how’ of my project.  My T-shirt had to get dismembered first off, before anything else could be done.  (Cutting into a RTW item to re-fashion it always makes me nervous because, unlike fabric, there a very limited supply on hand.)  After much forethought, I only cut the tee apart at the two side seams and at the shoulders, so as to plan out the front and back, then work from there.  The front of my tee had barely enough space to re-cut out the bodice pattern piece of Simplicity 1463 in an XXSmall, which was a size tinier than I wanted – oh, well.  As the Simplicity pattern is designed with a generous back bodice which gets gathered, I had to cut out the new back piece with my tee back turned sideways (the side seams horizontal to my shoulders and waist).  I was left with a seriously short back, but I was able to reach the same length as the new front piece by making a three part panel extension, made from cuffs of the two sleeves and a scrap from the front.  My lower back piecing isn’t that noticeable on the top, and even if it is, I think it looks pretty cool and interesting.  Whatever works!

Sewing with the stretch lace was a bit challenging.  The hardest part was matching the striped design in the lace.  The seams are a bit loose bit they seem to be sturdy enough because my top has had several trips through the wash machine already.

100_3298a     The leftovers of the finished hem were used to make a beautifully easy neckline (see above picture).  I love it when some of my work can be done for me!Advance 2872 V-poncho hem tops for girls mid-60s

The pattern impressed me with the way the final top fits.  Other raglan sleeves that I have made certainly do not fit as well as these do, nor do others look as pretty as these.  The pattern was easy and fun.  There is a corner at the front that I expected to be hard, but is was much easier than I expected and turned out great.  I almost would have liked to keep the hi-low V pointed hem, as I have seen this exact same feature, called a “poncho hem”, on tops in a 1962 Sears catalog I own, only my re-fashion did not allow for it. (See the Advance 2872 pattern at right for a “poncho hem” example.)  In all, Simplicity 1463 is a pattern that is certainly on my “make again” list.

After my top was done, I tried it on and…oh, no!  It was too small!  I should have figured on it being too small with the original top fitting too small, too.  So, my only solution was to rip out the side seams, add in a panel of the lace, then re-sew everything back together.  Personally, I am ecstatic at how the lace in the side seams gave me just enough room to be comfy, while incorporating the lace into the overall design of the top to create and more equalization overall, better than the pattern intended.  I don’t mean to pat myself on the back here or beat my own drum, but when you’re happy and proud about something, it just kinda comes out.100_3281

100_3300      Did you notice the awesome sandcastle in the right background of the picture above and at left?  I built the castle (after a few crumbled walls), hubby decorated it, and our little guy was the officially destroyer of it.

A refashion is kind of like building a sandcastle.  You never know how it will turn out until you just do it.  Sure it might not work out, things might fail to come together well, but just have fun and the end result should be great!  My top is a bit pieced together, and not perfect, but it’s practical, comfy, and all my own creation.  The satisfaction of making something is indeed wonderful!