SEWN: REFASH! A collaboration with Swapaholic


A couple of months ago, Swapaholic got in touch with me with the exciting opportunity to collaborate for their “Reimagine” swap party in July 2019. They sent me a bag of second-hand clothes collected from previous swaps, and my only brief was to embark on 3 different refashion transformations. Well, what a treat!

Some of the clothes were damaged and rejected for swaps, while some of them were still in good condition but somehow not picked up in the previous swaps. Regardless of the condition, I was in love with the choice of colours and fabrics that the second-hand pieces provided. You know me – I’m always ready to turn something old into something new again!

 

REFASHION #1: 1950’s style gingham set

The pick
I decided to use this gingham blouse for one of the refashion projects because .. gingham, duh. Well ok, not just that. This blouse is a great choice for a refashion project because the design of the blouse (with the extra large ruffle along the neckline and the long sleeves in particular) and its larger size mean that I will have ample yardage to play with for creating something new.
The idea
I knew I would have enough fabric for a separate top and bottom. To make things easy for me, I decided to make a simple skirt with an elasticised waist. The embroidered flowers were a design feature I wanted to keep in the final garment, so I decided to make a simple gathered skirt with the embroidered flowers along the bottom hem of the skirt. Other than sewing the sides together, sewing an elastic casing and inserting the elastic, I didn’t have to do much to make the skirt.

 

For the top, I decided to make a tube top using shirring elastic because shirred tops seem to be so “on trend” these days. They keep popping up on my feed! Anyway, I have been meaning to try to use shirring elastic so I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to start.

 

With the remaining pieces of fabric I had, I decided to make a long strip of fabric that can be used in many different ways. In my photos, you will see me using it as: 1) a headscarf, 2) a faux top for a vintage-inspired halter look, 3) a “belt”. I’m always thinking about outfit yield when it comes to sewing! I’m sure there are more ways I can wear the scarf so keep your eyes peeled, I might end up with 10 (or even more) looks by the end of the year.
But for now, I can already think of 7 different ways I can wear this refashion project and I think that’s pretty rad.
The final garment
And these are the final looks!

Wearing: handmade necklace, refashioned shirred tube top, refashioned skirt

 

Wearing: refashioned top and scarf for faux halter look, refashioned skirt, thrifted earrings

 

Wearing: high street earrings, refashioned shirred tube top, vintage Wranglers jeans

 

Wearing: refashioned headscarf, me-made white bustier top, vintage Wrangler jeans

 

Wearing: refashioned shirred tube top, refashioned scarf as belt, refashioned skirt, second-hand basket, earrings from a clothes swap with Swapaholic

 

Wearing: refashioned shirred tube top, refashioned skirt, refashioned headscarf tied in a bow, thrifted earrings, Tahitian kukui necklace

 

Wearing: me-made white bustier top, elastic belt (that I had since I was a teen), vintage bracelet, refashioned skirt

 

REFASHION #2: The cha-cha skirt

The pick
Another type of garment that is great for a refashion project is a maxi dress or maxi skirt. Similar to a larger garment, the added length of a maxi dress or skirt can provide additional yardage for refashioning. When I saw these 2 bright dresses, I knew they were perfect for my next refashion transformation. The bright orange and dramatic fuchsia just seem to go so well together! Also, the fuchsia dress came with a lining in the same fabulous colour, which meant that I really had a lot of yardage to work with for this refashion project.

 

The idea
 When it comes to thinking about how to execute a refashion project, I often try to make the sewing as simple as possible. The idea of cutting the dresses up into long strips of rectangles, then joining them up to make ruffles just came to me immediately. Also, because the colours of these dresses are so vibrant, I wanted to use that to my advantage and create a final garment with a design that is as eye-catching as these colours. And so, I made a tiered ruffle skirt with alternating colours for each layer that is reminiscent of the style of a cha-cha skirt.

 

The final garment
And now, here are some photos of the skirt in action!

Wearing: me-made white bustier top, belt (that I had since I was a teen), vintage bracelet


 

REFASHION #3: The basic pencil skirt


The pick
This oversized grey jersey dress became a natural candidate for my next project because of its colour and its material. Jersey knits are great to work with for a refashion project because the stretch it has offers more room for error in the cutting and fitting of the final garment.

 

The idea
Again, I’m all about thinking simply when it comes to refashioning. The idea of making a semi-fitted pencil skirt with an elasticised waist came to me because I wanted a skirt with a classic silhouette and neutral colour to add to my wardrobe. To make this skirt, all I did was chop the length of the dress off, sew an elastic casing, insert the elastic casing, and taper the width of the skirt as needed with straight stitches lengthwise. This refashion project was completed in less than 30 minutes!

 

The final garment
Here’s how the pencil skirt looks in action. I am pairing it with a cut-up t-shirt that I was actually wearing at home on the day that I was sewing this. They happen to pair nicely so I figured I would just style the skirt with the top for a “street fashion” look.

And there you have it, all 3 refashion projects that I did recently in collaboration with Swapaholic. If you’re located in Singapore, love fashion and want to be more sustainable, why not consider swapping instead of shopping? Swapaholic hosts regular swap parties at various parts of Singapore and they always have a great selection of styles! The next swap will be held on 7th September at Marina Barrage. Keep your eyes peeled on my posts on Instagram because I will be sharing a code for sign-up on Monday (29th July).
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my creative thought process behind these refashion projects. Which one is your favourite?

SEWN: Refashioned Summer Belle Dress (1980s look to 1950s style!)

The background

Since August 2018, I have been trying to declutter and downsize the things I own. I have a HUGE collection of vintage dresses from over the years. A big bunch of them are 1970s and 1980s clothes from my early years into vintage and from my previous trips to Hong Kong. I have been trying to sell them at a decent price on Instagram and Etsy, but I am also painfully aware of the fact that I may not be able to sell all of them in the timeframe that I have in mind.

The original vintage 1980’s yellow dress

There’s a particular yellow dress that I have a soft spot for – a 1980s dress with puffed sleeves and a beautiful circle skirt. I have always been a fan of the sleeves and the skirt, but didn’t think the bodice was too great. I made myself a promise – if it didn’t sell by the start of February 2019, I would cut it up and make myself something “new” to wear for Chinese New Year.

Alas, it didn’t sell.

The design

When I decided to cut the dress up, I had a few ideas in my head but no concrete plan for the final design. It’s hard to have a very definite plan for a refashioned project because I need to know the amount of fabric I have to work with, and I can really only tell after I have started cutting the pieces up. However, for this project, I was sure that I wanted to work the look around keeping the hemmed circle skirt and the puffed sleeves.

Originally, I thought I would do a shirred back with some shirring elastic I have, but then after cutting the bodice up and removing the lining, I realised it wouldn’t make sense to have a shirred bodice and that it would be easier to just make a basic peasant style blouse.

The bodice
Gwenstella Made Refashioned Summer Belle Dress 1980s 1950s vintage

front vs back view

With the zipper and lining removed, I sewed the back centre-seam together on the machine. Then, I cut the neckline to make a scooped neckline and trimmed the bottom hem of the bodice to straighten it.

cut skirt from bodice, removed zipper and lining from bodice

cut scoop neck and trimmed bottom hem of bodice

After that, I finished the cut edges with a small zig-zag stitch (with moderate tension) for a clean finish. Finally, I folded down along the edges of the neckline and the bottom hem to make a casing for the elastic.

finished edges with zig-zag stitches, made elastic casing

The skirt

lining is from original dress

The skirt was a pretty easy make. All I had to do was to make an elastic casing around the waist!

The final look

After completing the bodice and the skirt, there was still the little piece of fabric left from the faux cowl of the original vintage dress. I didn’t want to waste that fabric, so I decided to make some roses with them! The leaves of the roses are made with some green felt I had lying in my box of sewing supplies. I sewed some brooch pin on the leaves and then glued the leaves onto the back of the roses. I didn’t want to sew the roses directly onto the bodice because I want this blouse + skirt to have a more versatile look (i.e. not just one look).

Making the roses turned out to be such a great decision!

This blouse and skirt set has turned out to be such a great match to my “Pineapple of my Eye” set. I think I have just expanded a summer capsule wardrobe by accident. I will be mixing and matching my looks with them for the rest of the month, so keep an eye out for the outfits I will be posting on my Instagram (@gwenstellamade).

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking through the process of this refashioned project. Tell me what you think about this look in the comments section! x Gwen

SEWN/RESTYLED: Country Road Dress (2011 make)

You know the funny thing about time? Time changes people.

It’s been several years since I started sewing and I think I have changed a lot since the time I started creating with my Elna Sew Fun for the first time. My style has evolved and my skills have advanced (even if it’s just for a little bit).

Back in 2011, I shared my “vintage-inspired Country Road dress”. As I proudly wrote in my original blog post, it’s the 4th thing I had ever sewn. Ah those early years!

The original “Country Road” dress from 2011

Fast forward to 2018, many of the clothes I made during my first years of sewing have ended up being stored away in the dark corners of my wardrobe, neglected and forgotten. As I move towards trying to be more thoughtful and deliberate in the things that I make, I have also begun to think about all the things I have made and forgotten.

The original design made using New Look 6824

Obviously, I stopped wearing these items for a reason. For example, this dress that I made back in 2011 using New Look 6824 is no longer my current size, and no longer the length that I like going for these days. Also, I didn’t mention it in the original blog post, but I have always been unhappy with the way the neckline sits on my bust. The corners are kinda creased because I unknowingly clipped too much of the seam allowance away.

I had a little more than 0.25m of this green+purple gingham fabric stashed away for the longest time, and one day it dawned on me that I had to do something about this little piece of fabric and this forgotten piece of work. Moreover, I needed to sew a muslin for the bodice of my modified version of the Butterick 5209 (B5209) sewing pattern for my wedding dress. If I could: a) get a “new” casual day dress of out of this, b) revive my old dress, and c) use my fabric stash – WHY NOT.

So, here’s how I made my old dress into a new dress:

  1. Removed back centre zipper and unstitched bodice from skirt
  2. Lined bra pads with fabric from old bodice
  3. Make the sleeveless version of the B5209 with the remaining 0.25m of the original gingham fabric with the following modifications
    • sized down to my measurements
    • left the halter design open for addition of straps for a halter tie-back design
  4. Drafted the halter straps with a coordinating purple fabric and stitched them on
  5. Added the new B5209 bodice on the old New Look 6824 skirt (also resized the waist) with a side zipper and bra pads inserted – I had to make sure the bra pads were lined because the gingham cotton is kinda sheer
  6. Chopped off a portion of the bottom of the skirt and added a short width of the coordinating purple fabric to lengthen the skirt

New version of the dress: Front view

New version of the dress: Interior view

And that’s it! I thought I had more photos of the process taken but somehow I didn’t have them saved on my phone. I think everyone enjoyed the process photos in the last blog post so I will make sure I have the process photos taken for easier visualisation in the future!

I really think adding straps for a halter back-tie design is a great hack for the 1950’s style Retro Butterick 5209 pattern. You can also try adding a tapered pencil skirt or a quarter skirt like I did for this dress for several different looks!

Let me know what you think about this simple refashioned project. Also, how does everyone else cope with the handmade items that you have “grown out of” (either size-wise or style-wise)?

SEWN: Refashioned 1970’s Inspired Midnight Bohemian Skirt

I am going to start by making it clear that this is not a style I usually go for. But when I found out about the #SewFrosting Challenge organised by Heather Lou (of @closetcasepatterns) and Kelli (of @truebias), I knew I had to make this.

This sad, oversized vintage 1970’s dress had been sitting in my wardrobe for the longest time since I got it. (Why and how I got it, I can never recall or imagine) I love the print of the fabric and the soft, slinky feel of the polyester, and I knew I could alter it easily to fit myself, but I also didn’t think I would enjoy it in its very form – a midi length, long-sleeved dress with a pussybow.

Obviously, sending this to the donation bin is like a death sentence for the dress (and the fabric). Who would save a dress like this except for someone crazy like me? So, I did what I had to do – I butchered it and then stitched it together again.

I wanted to stay true to the era (i.e. 1970s), so I decided on the following 2 key design elements:

  • bias drape
  • ruffles

The result? A skirt that is 1 part goth, 1 part bohemian, and 100% ready for disco-dancing. Here’s how the magic happened:

  1. Unpicked stitches for sleeves and pussy bow collar
  2. Unpicked stitches for skirt
  3. Cut skirt the following ways (while checking that the final measurements will fit around my hips and knees):
    • sloping from back to front along the waist (so that the front will end up shorter than the back, and for that faux bias drape)
    • sloping from top to bottom (so that the width around the knees will end up narrow than the hips)
  4. Stitched along dotted line
  5. Folded down and stitched along the dotted line to create an elastic casing. Insert elastic.
  6. Cut sleeves to get rectangular pieces
  7. Aligned rectangular pieces as such and stitched them together to get a long strip of fabric. (This photo shows 4 rectangular pieces – 2 from each sleeve. I ended up getting 2 more rectangular pieces of the same measurements from the fabric from the bodice of the dress.)
  8. Gathered the long strip of fabric and stitched it along the hem of the skirt
  9. Stitched the unpicked seam of the pussybow collar to get a belt

This project was so fun to make and I loved doing something different on a whim. Anyone else here taking part in #SewFrosting as well?

I had been in a weird funk with my sewing since making my wedding dress and I think I finally got my sewjo back with an unusual sewing project like this one! No patterns, no regrets – just all about having fun! xx

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