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Fun with dye

I recently got a tiered circle skirt at an estate sale for a dollar or two. It seems to be a square dance skirt and is made of sturdy cotton. I did wear it once as-is, but it was a bit long on me and I was not a fan of the natural cotton color.

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I promise it wasn’t this wrinkled when I wore it.

The light color also made it a bit more sheer than I prefer.

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My first step in the transformation of this skirt was to remove the lowest tier. This took forever–there is a LOT of fabric in this skirt.  Removing the bottom foot or so of fabric made it a lot less overwhelming in length and weight. The next step was deciding on a color to dye it. I thought about a nice bright cobalt or deep red, but since the skirt style is a little out of my comfort zone anyway, I decided to go with black so it would blend in with the rest of my wardrobe. Finally, I sewed up the hem using another estate sale find, this beautiful vintage Necchi sewing machine.

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I bought regular old Rit dye from the supermarket–I chose the liquid version and followed the instructions for adding salt and dish soap. Unfortunately I didn’t do it perfectly, because it came out as a dark purplish-blue.

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I do kind of like this color, though, so I’m debating whether to redye it to get the deep black I wanted or to leave it like this.

I also took the opportunity to dye another estate sale find. I purchased some pale peach silk culottes for a couple of dollars, thinking that if I didn’t wear them (again, a bit out of my comfort zone), I could use the silk for another project. I did end up wearing them twice, but was not in love with the color. Here is a bad mirror selfie to give an idea of what they originally looked like.

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I was a bit nervous about dying silk so I read a bunch of tutorials. I used black Rit dye for these as well, but ended up loving the deep purplish-blue color that they turned partway through the process.

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I can’t believe how beautiful they are now and I can’t wait to wear them!

I also dyed a white shirt that I bought on Amazon and stained with tea the first day I wore it. Who would have thought that $3 bottles of dye could be so much fun?

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Felt dolls

Somehow I came across a tutorial for some cute felt paper dolls online and decided they were too cute not to make for my youngest niece. I looked up a few versions of these dolls to get an idea of how to make them. I wanted to make a little house for them, too, but I didn’t quite get that far. Maybe next year!

Project:
felt paper dolls

Materials and cost:
felt ($5.50 for a pack of mixed colors at JoAnne)
fabric scraps (free–from my stash)
embroidery floss (already had plenty)
total cost: $5.50 with tons of felt left over for other projects

Time:
several hours (one evening and an afternoon)

Process:
I sketched out a body-shaped pattern on plain white paper and when I was happy with it, cut it out and traced it onto some cardstock (from junk mail). I wanted to make them a big enough size for a toddler to play with, but small enough to be portable. They ended up about 6 1/2 inches high.

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I decided to make three dolls. I traced the pattern onto the lightest one, then stacked up three pieces of felt and cut them all out together. I added white felt underwear for modesty.

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Next I added simple faces with embroidery thread and created hairstyles using felt. Each hairstyle is made of two pieces–one on the front of the head and one in back. I tried to make them cute but simple. This step was fun because it gave the dolls some personality.

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Next I pinned each doll to a piece of white felt for a backing. After sewing the hair and backing in place, I cut out the white felt to follow the shape of the doll. I think this was much easier than cutting the white backing first and then trying to sew it on properly.

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That was it for the dolls. I think they looked pretty cute, though I had some difficulty sewing the hair–the pieces were so small!

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Next were the dresses. Each one needed a felt backing, both for stability and to make it stick to the doll. For these, I traced my cardstock pattern onto white paper and drew a basic dress shape over it. I cut out the dress and traced it several times onto white felt. I improvised some variations in neckline and sleeve length, and also made some skirts and tops out of the same pattern. I placed each piece of felt onto a scrap of fabric and cut around it. I wish I had cut out the dress shapes first, sewed the fabric and felt together, and then cut out the felt like I did with the dolls themselves–it would have been much easier. Live and learn.

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For this step, I found it easier to use Wonder Clips than pins. I also tried to choose fabrics that didn’t fray too much and sewed as close to the edge as possible.

I ended up making seven dresses, two skirts, two shirts, and a little ballerina outfit. I originally intended to make shoes and other accessories, but the clothes just about drove me insane. Again, I am not good at fiddly things.

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For some reason, I did not manage to get a single good photo of the finished product. 😦

I put all the parts in a little organza bag and the recipient seemed pleased with them. I would definitely make these again, but next time I’ll try not to wait until the last minute.

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Pendleton pencil skirt

Last year I bought a pale aqua Pendleton wool skirt suit from Goodwill for something like $8. I am unsure of the suit’s vintage, but the color and style of the skirt suggested that maybe it dates from the late ’70s to early ’80s. While the jacket actually fits pretty well, the skirt was long and rather frumpy, and the waist was impossibly tiny. I was sure I photographed the skirt, but I can’t find the photos, unfortunately. It was gathered slightly at the waist and had a large pleat in front. It was ingeniously constructed with pockets and only a button at the waistband for closure. Despite the tiny waist, there was a lot of fabric to work with, making it a perfect candidate for conversion into a pencil skirt. I cut off the waistband and unpicked one side seam and the back darts, leaving me with a big rectangle of wool.

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I used the pencil skirt pattern from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, since I had been successful with it in the past. As before, I shortened the skirt by a few inches. I also decided to make a plain waistband rather than the curved one in the pattern, so I didn’t need to use boning. With careful positioning, I was able to preserve the skirt’s original hem. I used just about every inch of the fabric.

I spent more time on this than on anything I’ve ever made. I added a lining (I had to buy new fabric for this, as the original lining wasn’t big enough to reuse) and hand-picked the zipper. There was a lot of hand sewing with this project–usually I hate hand sewing, but the results were worth it. And the wool was a dream to work with.

hand-picked zipper (with some stray threads that need to be removed)

hand-picked zipper (with some stray threads that need to be removed)

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While there are a few issues, mostly with the waistband, I am delighted with this skirt! I love the way the lining makes it look so much more finished and professional. I will definitely be lining my skirts in the future.

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Barbie clothes

I loved Barbie as a kid, and I currently have a niece who also loves her. Although I am generally really bad at making small, fiddly things (exhibit A), I found some tutorials online that made it look fairly easy. Despite the warning voice in my head, I decided to go ahead and give it a try, starting with a very basic skirt. I went through my stash of fabric scraps and chose ones with small prints that might appeal to a little girl, then followed these instructions for my skirt. It came out a bit boxier than I wanted, so I tried shaping it a bit. Unfortunately, the result was a bit too small for Barbie.

Don't take it personally, Barbie. You look great.

Don’t take it personally, Barbie. We’ve all been there.

Defeated, I gave up for the day and decided Barbie couture was not for me. The next day, however, I returned to my sewing machine with renewed purpose and made two skirts that actually fit. They were seriously basic–just tubes of fabric with elastic–but good enough for me.

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Although the instructions suggest serging the raw edges, I really didn’t feel like breaking out the serger for Barbie clothes. Instead I hemmed all the edges and used tiny French seams where appropriate.

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Feeling more confident, I attempted this shirt. I did decided to use the serger on this, which made things much easier. This was fairly complicated and didn’t come out quite as well as the inspiration image, but it is passable.

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At this point, I thought I should probably give up and be happy with three decent pieces in a row. But I really, really wanted to try this cute dress. Oh, and I wanted to make it in satin. You know, so Barbie would have something to wear to prom. I really did not have high hopes for this project, but I forged ahead, fearing that I was flying too close to the sun.

The result?

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I am so pleased with how this turned out. It looks a bit better in person–the flash makes it look like it is bunching at the hem and for some reason the bodice looks a little lumpy. It actually fits really well. I generally followed the directions closely, though I lengthened the skirt by an inch to make it seem a bit more formal and skipped the topstitching where the skirt meets the bodice. I also sewed up most of the skirt in the back, leaving enough of an opening for Barbie to get into the dress.

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The little matching bag is just a folded rectangle of fabric with a tiny ribbon loop for carrying. And with this, I am retiring from Barbie couture for the time being so as to preserve my sanity and give my seam ripper a rest.

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Baby hats

I love making baby stuff, especially out of fleece. It is so forgiving, not to mention super soft and cute. Since I have two baby showers this month, I made two little fleece hats using McCall’s M4682. I used this pattern several years ago to make a hat for my niece and it turned out surprisingly well. The first shower was for a baby girl. Since the registry had mostly items in neutral colors, I chose ivory fleece for the hat and decided to make it monochrome with ivory flowers.

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The pattern said to use purchased flowers, but really, flowers are pretty easy to make. I freehanded them and attached them at the center with pale pink embroidery thread.

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I have to admit, this is a pretty cute hat. In fact, I could only think of one thing that would make it cuter.

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Oh yes–ears. I drew a simple ear shape and sewed the ears into the seams. I think they are a tiny bit too far apart, but overall not bad. This one is for the first grandchild of an awesome friend. I wanted to line it with ivory fleece, which I used for the ears, but there wasn’t enough. Instead I chose a blue, ivory, and brown print that is a decent, if not perfect, match.

I meant this to be a shower gift, but the baby was just born so I need to get this in the mail soon!

These hats were lots of fun to make and the pattern is really easy to customize. They do seem a bit large, though, so I think the recipients will need to grow into them.

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T-shirt quilt: Part 1

We are doing some spring cleaning, which includes going through all the boxes in our closets and basement with the goal of having an epic yard sale and getting rid of lots of junk. I am a big-time clothes hoarder, with boxes of clothes that I hang on to either because I hope to fit into them again one day (not likely to happen anytime soon) or because I am emotionally attached to them. I have recycled some of these old clothes into new ones or into other projects, but for the most part they just take up space. Although T-shirt quilts are maybe a bit cheesy, making one seemed like a good use of all the T-shirts I will never wear again. I collected a big pile of these: shirts from schools where I taught, my high school graduation shirt, a couple of band shirts, and some other old favorites. Jared pitched in a few as well. There are many tutorials for T-shirt quilts online, but they pretty much start the same way: cut away the sleeves and separate front from back, iron on fusible interfacing for stability, decide on a size, and cut. Pretty simple. I saved the unused side and sleeves of each shirt for rags.

I bought 6 yards of lightweight fusible interfacing at 99 cents a yard. This should have given me 12 18-inch lengths of interfacing, but since I didn’t measure very carefully, I ended up with only 11. I also had more T-shirts than I thought, so I’ll need to buy more. After ironing on the interfacing, I measured the largest designs and decided to cut 15-inch squares. With a half-inch seam allowance, they will measure 14 inches square in the final quilt. I made a template of newspaper and checked the placement carefully, trying to center the design. This wasn’t always possible, as many of the designs were too close to the neck opening to work, but I did the best I could.

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At the end of the night, I had 11 squares ready; the rest of my pile will have to wait until I buy more interfacing.

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Here are a few of my favorites, including the anarchy shirt that I loved in high school (I thought I was such a badass), my high school graduation shirt signed by everyone in the class, a school tie-dye shirt from my elementary teaching days, and my beloved Tripping Daisy shirt.

A couple of the shirts were too small to fill out the square so I will have to find some way of filling them in or framing them with another material. I will also have to decide on a layout and choose whether or not to add sashing between the panels. Should be fun!

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More baby things

Just in time for my sister-in-law’s baby shower, I made a few more gifts to go with my fleece baby washcloths. I noticed that her gift registry included burp cloths, so I made her three of them using fabric left over from other projects. The blue seersucker is from a dress I made for my niece and the owls are from a skirt for my sister. The pink striped cotton is from an old pair of pajamas. I just cut 9 X 18-inch rectangles for these–so easy!

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I also made a little pair of fleece booties using this pattern. I used fleece instead of felt and machine-stitched them with the seams on the inside. It took three tries to make these look decent. Even though fleece is very forgiving, it is difficult to keep the right shape while sewing tiny pieces. Furthermore, the fleece has to be sturdy enough to stand up a bit.

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These were great projects for using up scraps and they were quite fun to make.