Birthday present dress to skirt refashion

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Bad hair day


I was given this dress as a present because I  had asked for charity shop items to refashion.

It’s per una by Marks and Spencer, a label I was quite fond of in the days when I mostly went to shops to buy new clothes, fabric was 100% linen, made in Turkey,   I really liked the colours.

The fit wasn’t too bad and I considered just shortening it but the before photos convinced me otherwise.

My daughter had said when she handed it over ‘I thought you could make it into a skirt’

I must confess I am a little reluctant to be told what to do, even by my own family, and wondered if I could attach a new top section and keep it as a dress.

However, the current design consisted of several bias cut panels, sewn together in a sort of twisted arrangement, which produced a nice drape.  Changing the top section may have been too much to handle, so a skirt it was.

The first cut was to lop off the top section. I made this high because the second cut was another strip to make a waistband.


I cut another strip off to make the waistband out of, choosing where to cut by where the seams holding the panels together had fallen.


There is a skirt which I use as a ‘gold standard’ for length and waist measurements.


By laying the two side by side it was clear that the waist needed to be a little smaller, but how to sew the seam exactly? Wishing to minimise any effect on the width and drape of the hemline, I used the full adjustment at the waist and tapered to meet the original seam halfway to the hem.

I cut a piece of thin cotton with no stretch to use as interfacing for the waistband and inserted a zip and button closure into one of the side seams.


The zip wasn’t an invisible one.  I like to use the method here  which involves sewing the zip in with the seam closed then ripping it open to expose the teeth.

Finished skirt:


And a couple of photos of it being worn on a recent trip to Milan.

This jasmine covered wall smelled wonderful


Taking a break from sightseeing in Milan



No time to waist

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I bought this skirt on a whim for £7.99  from Oxfam, a bit pricey if you ask me, but that’s Oxfam for you.


It was originally from the mid range ZARA brand, I liked the colour and the style, it looked in pretty good nick in this year’s colour of purple.


There was one problem, it was in a size smaller than I normally wear, but I knew I could fix that.

I would normally wash anything on my normal cycle before working on it but the laundry instructions for this garment were, shock horror, ‘do not wash’ – silk,  should have known.   Well here was a dilemma,  only a few days before a trip on which I wanted to wear this skirt.  It didn’t smell, there were no obvious stains so I decided to work on and wear it as is ie unwashed.

The style was flared panels with a secondary flared band at the hem.  Easy to make bigger just by shortening the skirt and therefore enlarging the waist a couple of inches.


Deconstructing a commercially produced garment is quite interesting.  The waist of this skirt gave up various items of piping cord and binding tape as I continued to unpick it, they will be going in my stash.


In the end, weary of unpicking just cut through the top 1.5 inches of the top of the skirt, outer and lining fabric combined, but unpicked around the zip.  This immediately unleashed the unruly nature of the slippery silk fabric and lining.  The new waist was turned under by about 1cm a couple of times to secure it.



The skirt ended up a bit shorter but I am a bit short so this wasn’t a problem.

The lining ended up sticking out from under the hem a bit, so turned it under to solve.  Those commercial manufacturers don’t miss a trick,  I could see that the stich length was time and thread savingly longer on the hem of the lining.

The zip was tucked under and finished with a couple of hand stitches and it was ready to go.20180313_105329

 I wore the skirt for the planned trip to Florence



Bonus Feature

Next to my fabric stash is a smaller but longstanding yarn stash.  I’ve had some of this stuff for 20 years and asked myself ‘if not now, when?’

So I’ve been through a bit of a knitting phase and produced this from some brightly coloured 100% cotton yarn bought a long time ago.


Long skirt to top refashion

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I bought this long skirt because I was attracted to the large amount of fabric and attractive border and it cost me £3.49, which was 10% of the original, still attached, price tag of £35.


The fabric was 100% polyester and there was a short gauzy white underskirt which I ended up using for facings.



My plan was to make a top, using a pattern given to me by a friend, incorporating the border of the skirt and the original hem.

The fabric was very light and floaty and the brand was ‘Glamorous’, one I had never heard of.  I looked it up and it appears to be an online shop of the type that claims to offer massive discounts. I don’t think that glamorous would have been my first choice of description for the original skirt though.


When I started cutting the pattern pieces out, it became obvious that this fabric was trouble.  It slipped and frayed all over the place,  even after weighing  it down in every place possible.

My newly and expensively purchased ‘walking foot’ did help in the actual sewing though.


Here is the finished top.  It will be good for travelling light because it takes up only the space of a light scarf and doesn’t really crease.



Bonus feature: Refashionables in Modern Art


On a recent trip to Tate Liverpool I was drawn to the above exhibit by Michelangelo Pistoletto  entitled  ‘Venus of the rags’ .  The description describes the mound of clothes as  ‘the detritus of modern society’ but I was thinking ‘that looks like a rather nice vintage scarf’











22 inch waist scuba skirt to 2 hour top refashion

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Rather guiltily I went into my local Traid as they were having a sale (again).  I think they were trying to get rid of all their summer stuff.

Why the guilt?  Because to be honest, I already have enough clothes and could probably afford go a year or two without buying anything at all, but the trouble is I like making things so am now regarding refashioning as a fairly harmless hobby but nevertheless gave myself strict orders that I could only buy one thing.


My eye was drawn to this skirt.  I liked the pale turquoise colour and also the fabric was a nice light scuba jersey knit, quite with a sort of shiny finish. This fabric was excellent to work with and scuba is certainly something I will be on the look out for in the future.



The amazing thing about this skirt was the teeny size of the waist.  It was 22 inches (I measured it later).  I don’t know anyone with a waist that small, and clearly there was no great demand for skirts in that size because it was brand new with labels.

This was the only way I could wear it.


I could see that despite the small waist size, the large pleats meant there was actually a decent amount of fabric in there, enough to make a top anyway.  The sales assistant gave me a funny look as I handed over £3.

I gave this skirt a wash using my usual cycle before attempting a refashion, it seemed to survive OK.  The wash was also necessary because there were a couple of dusty footprints on the skirt.  It had obviously fallen off the hanger a few times and been trodden on.


I removed the offending waistband to reveal a 56 inch wide tube of fabric.

There was also a nice organza lining in a matching colour.

I downloaded the 2 hour top pattern from sewdifferent.  This is a simple pattern with just 2 pieces to make a raglan top

2 hour top FREE sewing pattern – Step-by-step tutorial

Actually wordpress, the link does work.

I took the precaution of making a toile from a sheet to check the fit – I wouldn’t want to go wasting a £3 charity shop skirt now would I?

The fit was good but I added a couple of inches to the body length and removed an inch or so from the sleeve length.

Sadly there wasn’t really enough fabric to make the whole thing from the skirt.  I could have compromised a bit on the along the grain layout and patched a bit to make it fit, but I decided to instead use a contrast fabric for the sleeves.


I bought this lovely fabric on a recent trip to Norway when finding myself with about £12 in Kroner left over, and thinking that it was unlikely I would return to Norway anytime soon – no offence intended to Norway, I was just being realistic,  I went into a fabric shop to see what I could buy with that sort of money.  It was also jersey and a similar weight to the skirt fabric.

I think it looks like some kind of background wallpaper photo on a phone.

I made binding for the neckline from the skirt remains. The stretch in the fabric meant I could cut a less than 45 degree angle, and make sufficient binding with less fabric, and bound the hem with the contrast fabric.20160926_1922351


The fabrics were a stretch jersey so I used a narrow zig zag stitch throughout, as I don’t have a serger.  This worked surprisingly well.

The pattern instructions don’t tell you that there are no seam allowances included so it is up to you to work out where these are needed (everywhere except neck and hem) and add your chosen allowance accordingly when cutting out.

I only discovered this when reading the comments on the blog about the pattern.


Now a word about scuba fabric, which I have read up about since making this top  It behaves very well under the needle and drapes smoothly.  It also, apparently does not fray at all and when I made this top I thought it would look very nice without any hem but wasn’t quite brave enough to leave it like that. Information I have also found says that scuba does not breathe at all … UH OH.  I will have to see how sweaty this fabric is IRL as a top.






Although I was only supposed to be buying one item in Traid, I was amazed to find this beautifully hand crafted unworn dress.

It was originally priced at £18.99 but was now reduced to £3.

Someone had put hours of work into this dress, it was lined and had these lovely bows on the front and then they had donated it, why would they do that? and all their hard work was being sold for £3. I had to rescue it.


I have no idea what I am going to do with this dress but will try and find something to do it justice.









Auntie’s antimacassar to skirt refashion

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This project started off as one thing (the bottom of a top) and ended up as something completely different (the top of a bottom)

When making my Refashioners denim dress I made a toile for the bodice.

It seemed a shame not to make a wearable garment out of this bodice so I headed to my stash for a suitable fabric partner and this is what I came up with.


This piece has a bit of a back story.  I inherited it in a case of household linens from my great aunt.  The fringe at only one end suggests to me that its some form of antimacassar .

I wouldn’t normally go using old pieces of fabric in a refashion, because I know this will speed up its demise,  but this woven piece had some damage already.


Consequently I decided to use it with the underside to the front, as its woven it still looks good this way round, just an inverse of the front.


This item has been stuck away in a cupboard since 1993 and before that I don’t ever remember my aunt having this thing in use. I honestly don’t think she would have objected to the refashion.


I  removed the fringe, which interestingly, had been added before the hem, cut the piece in half lengthways, and made a tube. The edges had been machine sewn with a long stitch.  It was just the right width to attach to my bodice, give or take a couple of darts at the back and a bit of shaping.



This could have been left as a top at this stage but I decided to continue and make a dress  because as a top it was a little too short and the stiffness of the antimacassar made it stick out a bit.

I cut some wedge shapes from the legs of 2 pairs of similar brown corduroy trousers I had in my stash.

The length of the wedges was limited by the knee to hem length of the trousers.

This pair was one I had been keeping as a sort of diet  ‘target’ pair.  They used to be comfortable about 10 years ago.


I  laid out the panels under the bodice then stitched all the wedges together to make a skirt piece and pinned it to the top.


Unfortunately it looked OK on the table but when being worn, the antimacassar just didn’t seem to sit in the right place, and also seemed a bit too stiff.

As I had now cut up this old piece of fabric I had a responsibility to it, so the bodice will have to wait for another day  and plan B was a skirt.

I unpicked the antimacassar from the bodice and sewed it onto the cord panels, having first adjusted the cord panels to fit the right size to fit the antimacassar.


This looked better but was not long enough for a skirt.  I decided to add a yoga type waistband to both increase the length and make the skirt super comfy and also I would not then need to add a zip.

I cut a long tube from a t-shirt donated to me by my daughter, shaping the tube with a waist in the middle so it was designed to be folded over.

I cut this tube a tight fit so it would be stretched and keep the skirt up – that’s the theory anyway. I am always going to be wearing a top to cover the waistband, it isn’t designed to be on show.


Finally, I didn’t want to take any length off the cord panel section for a hem, so made some bias binding from a pillowcase to bind the hem.


Here is the finished skirt.





It has only taken, one antique antimacassar, 2 pairs of trousers, one t-shirt and one pillowcase to make so I hope I get some wear out of it.



Skirt made bigger

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This is another skirt I bought for £1.


I knew it was going to be a bit small but I liked the colours and the shape is my style.

It was by ‘Fat Face’, a brand I usually like, in 100% cotton, fully lined with a thin, plain brown fabric, also 100% cotton, made in India.



The waistband area had several elements, there were the belt loops  (no belt supplied with the skirt), and additional decorative belt loops secured lower down the skirt with buttons.

The basic waistband was a rather nice contrasting piece of Indian style binding with no stretch,  which I removed and put in my stash.


I couldn’t just shorten the skirt from the waist to make it bigger, the length was OK anyway, I would have to add an insert panel as well as a new stretchy waistband.

I cut open the back seam and inserted a triangle of heavy duty elastic .

I also added a new stretchy waistband, which involved removing and re-attaching the decorative belt loops.



Front and back view of insert, adding 2 inches to the waistband.

Skirt is now a perfect and comfortable fit.  I won’t be able to wear it with a tucked in top, but rarely do that anyway.



Having worn it a few times, I did wonder if the insert would have been better placed at the front because there is a small change to the drape, probably only noticeable by myself – something to consider next time.