Altered yellow thrift store dress

Today I finally got around to altering one of my Goodwill dresses from a couple of weeks ago. Here is what it looked like when I bought it:

just a wee bit frumpy

It’s made of a medium-weight yellow-brown polyester. It is a bit big; there is a zipper in the back but I could easily get it on and off without unzipping, and the armholes are too large. While it does have its charms, and I do like long dresses, the length combined with the drab color and super-’70s pattern is a bit much. To make it wearable, I chopped 18 inches off the length, just above a slit on one of the sides. I also didn’t like the high neckline so I lowered and widened it a bit and finished it with yellow-orange quilt binding that I had left over from another project. The binding bunches just a little bit, so I might eventually replace it with binding made from the extra dress material, but honestly I’ll probably never get around to it. I took in a little less than an inch on either side of the bodice to give it some better waist definition and to make the armholes a bit smaller. Finally, I gave it a new, 1 1/2-inch hem. The hem was going beautifully until I noticed that my new magnetic seam guide, which couldn’t get a very good grip because it was almost off the edge of the metal plate, was creeping inward due to the vibration of the machine. The hem ended up a little uneven, and I have learned not to use the seam guide for that wide of a hem. Again, something I’ll probably never bother to fix. So here is the finished product:

The color is a bit off in this photo–there isn’t quite that much color contrast between the neck binding and the dress. I can still put it on without unzipping it, but I didn’t want it to be too tight because clingy polyester is uncomfortable in the heat. The armholes are still a bit funky, but I don’t know if I can do anything about that, so I’m leaving them. I can’t wait to wear it–I think it will look good on its own in the summer and with red tights for fall. I wish I had another wedding to go to this summer because my mom gave me some gloves that are exactly the same yellow as the quilt binding I used on the neckline.

Here is a detail of the pattern.

Total cost: $2.69 for the dress and about an hour of time.


Thrift store finds

Jared and I recently attended a baseball game with a ’70s theme so we went to Goodwill to find suitable clothing. We ended up with some really groovy vintage outfits and were reminded that itchy, heavy, vintage polyester does not mix well with heat and humidity. Regardless, we had a fun time (or as much fun as a non-sports fan like myself can have at a sporting event). More importantly, though, while at Goodwill I found two fantastic vintage dresses.

This one is really…special. It was half off and set me back $2.69. It is a stretchy polyester knit with an allover yellowish-brown basket-weave pattern. The bodice, shown in part above, has flowers in green and two shades of orange, while the skirt has just the basket-weave design. The dress is ankle-length and comes with a matching, long-sleeved jacket. It is seriously ugly and a couple of sizes too big, but there is something charming about the pattern that reminds me of a 1970s kitchen or something. I may shorten this and take in the sides a bit to make it wearable.

This is part of a fabulous Hawaiian print dress in a thin polyester (or some similar material–I am bad at fabrics). It, too, is ankle-length and has a halter top. The skirt fits but the halter top is way too small–a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. I think there might be enough fabric here to make a short sundress if I find a suitable pattern. I am a little wary of cutting up such a fabulous dress, though, so there is a chance that it might just sit in my closet for years. This one cost a little over $5.00, I think.

Before I think about these, though, I am hoping to make a wrap dress to wear to an upcoming wedding. This will be my first project with my serger. More details to come, I hope.


More new patterns!

My dad found me some more patterns–these are a bit more recent than the previous batch–mostly from the late 70s to early 80s. They are all designed for knits and come in big envelopes and are printed on heavier paper; you are supposed to trace the correct size onto pattern paper. This is a great idea, since it allows multiple uses for different sizes. There are six of these; my two favorites are the gored skirt and the swimsuit, both from 1979.

There is also a McCall’s Easy Sewing Book, copyright 1960. These old sewing books are always fun–no matter how simple they claim to be, they always seem to assume quite a bit of knowledge. And I love the kittens on the cover!


Garage sale finds

I rarely go to garage sales, mainly because I simply don’t think of it but also because I rarely find anything worthwhile. Some people have an almost magical ability to find the most wonderful things at garage sales and thrift stores, but I am not one of those people. Today, however, I was with my parents (my dad, especially, is a pro garage-saler) and stopped at one. I walked away with a couple of good finds, including a small box of assorted ribbon priced at ten cents.

While the quality and condition varies, I will definitely be able to use at least some of this. I also got another box of sewing notions for a quarter. It is a pretty odd collection of stuff, including coverable buttons, fasteners, and lots of belt buckles, but I was most interested in the tailor tacker, which should be useful for both patternmaking and garment construction.

Again, I don’t know whether I will use most of this, but at twenty-five cents who could resist? I also bought six yards of ivory satin for three dollars. I really don’t know what I’m going to do with all that satin, but I’m sure inspiration will strike eventually.

Finally, I wanted to show off the new dish towels I got today, courtesy of my dad’s amazing auction skills. This is one of a full set of seven towels hand-embroidered with birds doing household chores. Here they appear to be cleaning their birdhouse. I love the cute design and the vivid colors, but I have no idea what to do with these. I’m afraid they might get dirty if I use them for their intended purpose, but I can’t think of anything else and I don’t want to just keep them in a box or cupboard. I’d love to use the embroidered portions as clothing appliqu├ęs somehow, but I don’t know if that’s possible or whether I’m willing to cut them up.

For now I will just admire these absolutely charming designs. I feel inspired to take up embroidery again.



Last weekend my dad brought me an awesome gift found at an auction–a box of over 40 vintage patterns. Most are from the late 60s to early 70s, and there are some absolute gems among them. Here are some of my favorites:

This one seems like it would be as flattering as a wrap dress but without the danger of inappropriate revelations on a windy day.

This one is just so glamorous. However, I don’t think I would ever have occasion to wear a dress like this, much less the skills to make it.

This one is just cute and fun. I especially love the low belt on version 3.

I love the idea of a dress with matching jacket. And I like the stitching details on what is otherwise a very simple dress.

I would never in a million years wear this, but it cracks me up.

This might be my favorite because of the cutout detail. And what I at first thought were pleats on versions 2 and 3 are actually little shorts worn underneath. The back of the envelope describes the shorts version as a beach-dress. I wish I would have known about this before my Mexican vacation!

Anyway, I am quite eager to get started on one of these dresses (but not the jumpsuit). Unfortunately, work comes first and I’ll be swamped for the next few days.