Category Archives: refashion

tired turtleneck transformed

Too much alliteration? Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Anywho, check out my latest refashion:

finished zip cardigan

Many years ago, I went through an inexplicable turtleneck-loving stage, which ended suddenly and with even less explanation.  These days I can’t stand wearing turtlenecks, but I hate being cold even more.

The obvious solution is to turn those turtlenecks into something wearable, something I can layer to keep me warm!

materials needed

step one: gather supplies
Besides your sewing machine and basic sewing supplies, you will need three things:

1. the turtleneck. One you’re not wearing, or that you’re willing to experiment on. Any kind will do, in any weight fabric. Mine is a medium weight, short-sleeved ribbed turtleneck.

2. the trim. I used 2″ wide trim I made myself using a bias tape maker, although it is cut on the crosswise. Bias-cut trim would have probably worked better. If you want a solid color, save yourself some steps and buy a package of extra wide, double-fold bias tape.

3. the zipper. If you want this to function as a true cardigan, you’ll need a separating zipper. I plan on wearing mine at least half zipped all the time, so I don’t care about that.

For the best effect, you’ll want the zipper to reach all the way from end to end. Mine was 23″ and a bit too short, so measure carefully!

chalk line before you cut

step two: mark & cut
Decide where you want the split in your cardi, and mark that line with chalk. I decided for asymmetry, and therefore drew my chalk line a little bit off center. After cutting on this line, I ran a wide zig zag stitch along the raw edges, to prevent the knit from unraveling.

The zig zag was probably not essential because of the rib knit, but with a looser knit it would be critical. Use a serger if you have one (that is not in your closet under other stuff, like mine is).

pin and stitch fabric trim

step three: pin & stitch trim
Pin your bias tape to the front of the cardigan, matching the raw edges, with right sides together (as seen on the right above). Stitch in the first fold using a slightly long straight stitch (as seen on the left above).

use stitch witchery to make it stay without sewing

step four: fold & press trim
Fold your bias tape to the wrong side of the cardi, enclosing the raw edge. Normally, you would stitch in the ditch from the right side, taking care that your stitch catches the folded edge of the bias tape on the wrong side.

But, I didn’t want any stitches showing.  So I cut a skinny strip of stitch witchery, and pinned it inside the fold (see above).

Then, I pressed the trim with a hot steamy iron, taking care not to iron over the pins, even though I used heat-resistant glass head pins. You can very easily leave an impression of the pins in your fabric if you iron over them, even the super-skinny ones. Just take them out as you go, just like when you sew!


pin zipper on top of trim

step five: attach zipper
As a nod to the exposed zipper trend, I decided I wanted the zipper on top of my fabric trim, rather than tucked behind it.

I pinned the zipper tape to the very barest edge of the finished trim, and stitched it down with the tiniest seam allowance I could manage. I decided to use gold topstitching thread, because why not?

use topstitching thread to add contrasting color

Done! A perfect layer for October days that range from the high 40s to the low 70s (seriously, that’s what the weather’s been like around here!).

Obviously this works on any top, not just a turtleneck. But then you wouldn’t get the cool effect at the collar!

You could cut your cardi down the center, or at an angle. If you are super fancy, why not try a curve (in which case you would definitely need trim cut on the bias)?

Try this with any weight turtleneck, anything from a t-shirt to a thick, heavy sweater. Have fun with the color combinations, and look out for zippers with crazy prints on the zipper tape (or stitch them on yourself!).

Send me pictures of the ones you make!




wear it this weekend: a holiday sweater you’ll actually wear

I’m going to my first holiday party of the season this weekend. (Incidentally, it’s my 8th anniversary party. Click here to see the Facebook invite and RSVP!)

Obviously I want to wear something sparkly, but going to the mall depresses me…time for a refashion!

sad black cardigan

I started with a plain black cardigan. Another refugee from my business casual wardrobe that I put together before I knew that “versatile” does not necessarily mean “plain and boring.

I was so young! So foolish! Seriously, how dull is this thing? Clearly in need of a little something to make its little cardi life worth living.

I definitely wanted something shiny to perk up this plain cardi. So I went to my local fabric store, and raided the decorative trim aisle. I couldn’t decide between four different trims, so I got them all.

sparkly trims in black

The best thing about this refashion? Even if your trim is super expensive (mine wasn’t – the priciest one was less than $4/yard), it’s still going to be much cheaper than buying a new bling-y sweater…you only need 1.25 yards of trim!

I love contrasting textures, so in the end I decided on the sequins for shine, and the velvet to add depth. Here’s the final look:

holiday sweater that doesn't suck

The velvet was sewn on by machine (just one long stitch down each side of the ribbon), but I sewed on the sequin trim by hand, using long whip stitches. I used a tiny, super-skinny needle and silk finish thread to make the smallest holes possible in my sweater and in the trim.

I am totally wearing this this weekend, with something lacy underneath and possibly a satin sash tied around my waist!

variations to try
Obviously you could do this with any color sweater and any color trim…they don’t even have to match! What about matte sequins or satin ribbon? How about a strip of fancy fabric instead of trim, like damask or brocade, or something else with texture? You could also replace the plain buttons with something a bit fancier, like rhinestone, glass, or mother-of-pearl buttons.

check out my other cardi refashions
I sort of have a thing for turning my boring cardigans into something a bit more interesting. Check out the other refashions in my “just say no to boring cardigans” series: part one (with lace), part two (with a shawl), part three (with yarn), and part four (nautical style).

As always, I’d love to see your versions of holiday sweaters that are actually wearable!


wear it this weekend: nautical cardi refashion

Although September is well under way, around here it’s still a little warm for long sleeves and jackets. It’s the perfect weather for layers, like a nice lightweight cardigan.

nautical inspired t-shirt refashion

You can make this cute nautical style cardigan from a t-shirt, and wear it this weekend! This tutorial is very easily adapted to different weight shirts and different colors.

Why not make two or three? This only took about two hours, which practically counts as instant gratification!

supplies needed for this refashion

gather materials
I used a short sleeved, navy blue t-shirt for this refashion. I wanted a traditional nautical look, plus it’s still too hot for something heavier. But this tutorial works just as well with a sweater, or with a long-sleeved shirt.

You’ll also need 1.25 yards of white grosgrain ribbon (I used 5/8″ wide), 1.25 yards double fold bias tape, and eight 1″ gold buttons.

I recommend using a blunt nosed needle made especially for knits in your sewing machine. A regular sharp needle can snag the fibers in a knit, leading to skipped stitches and other frustrations. Sewing is supposed to be fun!

t-shirt cut down the middle to make a cardi

step one: cut
Cut your shirt in half right down the center front, to turn your shirt into a cardigan. You may want to mark the line first with chalk, to make sure it is perfectly straight.

If you’re making this cardi out of a sweater, run a zig zag stitch down either side of the chalk line before you cut it…it will prevent your sweater from unraveling before you get to the next step!

grosgrain ribbon

step two: apply ribbon detail
Cut your grosgrain ribbon into eight 5″ lengths, one for each button. If you use thinner ribbon and smaller buttons, you might want more than four on each side. It’s all up to you!

To make the plackets, Fold the raw ends of the ribbon towards each other, making a point in the center, so the ribbon forms a little arrow shape.

measure and mark where ribbon should be

Measure and mark on your cardigan where you’d like the ribbon and buttons to appear. Make sure they are evenly spaced, and that the left and right sides of your cardigan match.

Baste the raw edge of the ribbon plackets to the raw edge of the center front of the cardigan.

use bias tape to cover the raw edge

step three: finish the raw edges
Use bias tape to enclose the raw edges of the shirt and ribbon. Narrower tape would work just as well, but might be harder to sew on. Leave a half inch of bias tape at each end.

If you’re doing this refashion with a sweater, you can leave it at that. If the shirt or sweater you’re using is very bulky, you might not want to fold under the edge again (in that case, I would sew all the way around the ribbon in step two above, rather than just baste the raw edge).

fold under and stitch

Otherwise, hide the bias tape by folding under the edge and pressing and stitching it down, 3/8″ from the folded edge. Make sure your ribbons are folded out of the way, so you don’t stitch over them (as seen on the left side of the cardigan above). Tuck the ends of the bias tape under this fold to hide the raw edge.

Then you can sew down the ribbon along the edge of the arrow shape, using matching thread (as seen on the right side of the cardigan above). Make sure to leave your needle down in the fabric when you turn those sharp corners!

gold button detail

step four: sew on the buttons
Use chalk to mark exactly where you want each button to be sewn on (I chose closer to the inner edge than to the pointed end of the ribbon), and then sew them on by hand.

Done! Enjoy your new adorable cardigan, a perfect transition piece from summer to fall!

Obviously you can choose any color shirt, ribbon, and buttons. This would look adorable with a red shirt instead of navy! How about a white lightweight sweater with navy ribbons and silver buttons?

Or you could forgo the traditional red/navy/white nautical look and try something more modern.

As always, I’d love to see pictures of the ones you make!




wear it this weekend: the easiest t-shirt skirt in the world

So, it’s Wednesday. Whether you’re going to the beach for Memorial Day weekend, or planning on settling in for a staycation, you’re going to need something cute to wear. Something fun and summery, yes?

When it’s too hot for jeans, a loose fitting summer skirt is your best friend. I’m going to show you a ridiculously easy way to refashion one from a t-shirt. I promise this is the easiest refashion you will ever do!

finished t-shirt skirt, with a red top and floral obi belt

gather materials
There are honestly only four steps to this refashion. You’ll be done in less than an hour! All you need is a t-shirt, elastic for the waistband, scissors, and your sewing machine. There’s NO hemming on this skirt, you are literally going to make ONE cut, and sew THREE seams.

The first thing you need is a really big t-shirt. Some tips for picking a good one:

1. A large men’s t-shirt (or XL or XXL, whatever) works best. They have a boxy shape, and come in larger sizes. If the shirt around the chest will fit around your hips, you’ve got yourself a winner!

2. Choose one with little to no logos/printing, unless it’s something cool you’d like to feature on your skirt.

3. Choose an awesome color! I chose yellow because “solar power” is everywhere. Just don’t use a white shirt, or you may be flashing your knickers to the world!

Swipe one from anyone you know who hoards big t-shirts, or pick one up at a thrift store, like I did.

cut thrift store shirt off at the sleeves

step one: cut
Cut off the top of the shirt, right at sleeves. With a big enough shirt, this should leave enough fabric to be a knee-length skirt. You’ll use the hem of the shirt as the hem of your new skirt.

1" elastic waistband

step two: make a waistband
Cut a length of elastic for your waistband. I like to use 1″ wide swimsuit elastic, as it is just the right amount of stretchy without being too stiff.

Wrap the elastic around your waist where you’d like the skirt to sit, and overlap the ends 1″. Make sure it’s not too tight, but snug enough to hold your skirt on your body!

Sew the ends together using a zig zag stitch.

ease skirt waistband to fit elastic

step three: pin
Now you have an elastic waistband that is probably significantly smaller than the waistband of your skirt. To make them fit, you’ll have to use what the commercial patterns call an ease stitch.

That means sew a basting stitch (the longest straight stitch on your machine) all the way around the top of your skirt. Do not backstitch, and do not let the stitches meet.

Check out this dress-shirt-to-skirt tutorial for more details on how to pin the elastic to the skirt. Essentially, you will be pulling on the basting threads to gather the fabric of the skirt, to ease it into fitting the elastic.

finished elastic waistband for tshirt skirt

step four: sew
Now that you’re all pinned, sew the skirt to the elastic using a zig zag stitch, right along the top edge. Then fold the fabric over, and stitch it again, so the raw edge of the elastic is inside.

Done! Enjoy your super cute skirt!

A skirt this simple is ripe for variations, of course. How about using 2 or 3 shirts of different colors and color blocking them? How about adding embellishments like fabric flowers? Or perhaps making a maxi skirt version? The possibilities are endless.

As always, I’d love to see pictures of the one you make. Happy Memorial Day!




tragic brown cardigan refashioned into something wearable

My new year’s resolution is to finally have the wardrobe of my dreams in 2012. I don’t plan on doing much shopping though…I’m going to refashion what I’ve got into fabulousness, and sew the rest from scratch!

tragic brown cardigan: before

This chocolate brown cardigan is a perfect candidate. How unspeakably dull is this thing? Why would I want to dress like Mr. Rogers (who is definitely a role model in a non-fashion way, though)? What could I have been thinking when I bought something so plain and verging on ugly?

I’ll tell you what I was thinking: I need something versatile. I say it all the time now, and I’m going to keep saying it: basic does not have to be boring.

Obviously, there was a time I did not know this. I mistakenly equated versatile with plain. It was during these dark times that I purchased this tragic and dull cardigan sweater.

Good thing I’ve seen the light, and now I can fix it!

tragic brown cardigan: hideous original buttons

Seriously, what is with these buttons? Not only are they absurdly large, they are a foul mud color! Not even the same chocolately brown as the sweater! Not nice.

Obviously the first step in this refashion is to ditch the fug buttons. I found these pretty golden ones at my local fabric store, and thought they would do nicely:

pretty gold buttons

After cutting off the old buttons, I noticed that their extreme size had stretched out the button holes on the sweater. I didn’t want them to gape open over my new (smaller) buttons, so I knew my next step was to doctor the button holes.

I simply put a few stitches in the top of each button hole from the back side, using matching thread, to make each one about 1/4″ smaller.

cardigan button holes, before and after surgery

Just changing out the buttons made such a big difference; I could have stopped there. But the cardigan still felt unfinished to me. It was still too dull to be something I would want to wear on purpose.

So I asked myself: what would “versatile” really look like? Not in the abstract, but in terms of what I actually wear or what I want to wear?

Well, it turns out I wear an awful lot of purple, red, and bright apple green. Those are the color shirts I’m most likely to be wearing under this cardigan, so why not add those colors to the cardigan itself?

hand spun yarn

I found this pretty hand spun yarn in my stash, which I believe I purchased from some local knitter at Crafty Bastards two years ago.

I had no idea what I was going to do with it when I bought it, but that’s almost always how it is with me. I decided to sew it onto the button placket and neckline of my cardigan in two long lines.

I used a very long and very narrow zig zag stitch to sew the yarn in place. I also put a new, blunt-nosed needle (especially for knits) in my machine. Sharper needles meant for woven fabrics can snag your knit fabrics; it’s especially important to avoid that when you’re topstitching on knits, like I did here.

cardigan with new yarn accents

Tragedy averted! My finished cardigan is interesting, colorful, versatile, and most importantly, something I actually want to wear, rather than something I just throw on because I don’t have anything else.

Shouldn’t every item in your wardrobe be like that?

brown cardigan: tragedy averted!

I wore this sweater yesterday with a purple shirt underneath it, and got lots of compliments! More importantly, I felt really great in it…like myself. Before, it felt purely utilitarian – just another layer to put on because it was a bit cold outside. Now it’s something I want to wear, and feel good wearing.

That feeling is the difference between just wearing clothes, having a style all your own.

The whole process took me about an hour. What do you have in your closet that only needs a bit of attention to turn into something you love?


wear it this weekend: DIY envelope clutch

I have long been a huge fan of the envelope clutch. Not only is my own version one of my flagship designs for Holland Cox, another version is the very first sewing pattern I’ve offered for sale!

Despite what you may think, an envelope clutch can be very versatile. This little tutorial is just one way to prove it!

bright orange envelope clutch

This is a variation of my evening envelope clutch sewing pattern. My pattern includes a flap with optional piping and a magnetic snap closure, and is about medium-sized.

For this version, I wanted a more trendy look, so I left off the flap, and made it a bit bigger. Over-sized clutches have been all over the runways since last spring, and if the current runways are any indication, they’re not going away anytime soon!

clutch pattern altered to be taller and wider

step one: alter the pattern
It’s super easy to adjust the size and shape of this clutch. I wanted mine to be a bit taller and a bit wider, so I just taped 1″ strips to my existing pattern piece.

I also wanted to use a zipper, instead of the magnetic snap that the original pattern calls for, so I had to make sure it was wide enough to accommodate the 12″ zipper I had.

Since I like to sew with a 3/8″ seam allowance, I made sure my new pattern was wide enough to have at least a 1/2″ clearance at either end of the zipper.

fabric cut for envelope clutch

step two: cut the fabric
The most “on-trend” clutches this season are in bright, bold colors. (Check out Olivia Palermo at London fashion week a few days ago with a bright blue one.) Naturally I had to choose orange for mine!

This clutch is so simple that you could make it out of nearly anything…something really heavyweight like upholstery fabric, denim, or corduroy, or something lighter like silk dupioni.

This clutch works great in leather, suede, or vinyl as well. Remember to use a Teflon or plastic zipper foot on your machine when sewing with leather…or just stick a piece of frosted Scotch tape on the bottom of your regular foot. This prevents the metal foot from sticking to your leather, ultrasuede, vinyl or suede fabric.



step three: add a pocket
For such a large clutch, you’re going to need at least one pocket, so your smaller goodies aren’t floating around in the bottom of your bag all willy-nilly.

I used the pocket that came with the envelope clutch pattern, which is just a rectangular patch pocket. If you feel the need, make two instead of one. Sew one down the center to create two smaller pockets, for your iPhone or some other e-toy. Just one more way to further personalize your envelope clutch!

zipper pinned into the seam allowance

step four: insert the zipper
Somehow zippers have gotten a bad rap…they are not nearly as scary as you might think! Don’t be scared of zippers just because you’re a new sewer!

My method for inserting a zipper in a handbag is super easy:
1. fold under and press a 1/2″ hem along the top of the self and lining
2. line up the self and lining, wrong sides facing, so that the folded edges match exactly
3. pin the zipper tape in between these two layers
4. topstitch the zipper in place. Done!

installed zipper

step five: sew the bag together
Can you believe we are almost done sewing!?! To sew the bag together, open the zipper all the way, and then pin the self (the orange canvas on my bag) together with right sides facing, and do the same with the lining (the geometric print on my bag).

Remember to leave a hole in the bottom of the lining. Sew all the way around the bag, backstitching at each end of the opening, and over the side seams where the lining meets the self.

Turn right side out, close the hole in the lining, and that’s it. You’re done! Press your bag carefully and you’re good to go!

Your finished clutch will be very, very flat, and ready to fill up with all your gear you need for a night on the town (or a day of errands…whatever).

finished, flat envelope clutch

optional: embellishments
I left mine plain (I rather think the bright “safety” orange speaks for itself…), but this envelope clutch is ripe for all kinds of embellishments…you can really go wild with this if you want!

How about sewing on a wide strip of fabric in a contrasting color? Then you’d be even more on-trend, what with colorblocking being so hot right now.

You could pin your favorite brooch to the bag, or even a wrap a necklace or a belt around your clutch. (Check out the over-sized buckles on clutches at the spring 2012 Burberry Prorsum show last week.)

topstitching thread satin and grosgrain ribbons


You could use topstitching thread to sew a design onto the surface of your bag, or use ribbon to add both a shot of color, and a contrasting texture.

Just remember to add any sewn embellishments to the bag before you insert the zipper (after you deal with the pockets in step three).

This bag took me about a half hour to make. With such minimal time investment, you could literally make one to wear this weekend!

evening envelope clutch sewing pattern

Pick up the envelope clutch sewing pattern (it’s an instant download PDF, so no waiting!), and make as-is, or with your own unique adjustments. If you do make changes, it would seriously make my day to see pictures of your version (or even if you don’t)!

Go forth and have a stylish (and trendy!) weekend. Sign up for my Syndicate mailing list to be notified when I have new patterns for sale.


this top would be perfect, if only…

You know those garments you have that you like, but that you could LOVE if only…that one thing about it could be changed? Those little pretties are ripe for refashion. Here’s my latest.

printed sleeveless tank: before

before: cute top, dull tie.
When I still had an office job, this sleeveless top spent most of its time underneath jackets and cardigan sweaters when I wore it to the office. I really liked the colors and the small-scale geometric print.

I wasn’t so much a fan of the little tie. It’s okay, but not really “me”. However, back then I wasn’t that concerned with making my outfits “me,” I was more concerned with the office dress code. So I never did anything about it (my mistake).

top with tie removed from neckline removed strap a165space


step one: remove the tie
To make this top more “me,” I decided to turn the bland tie into a cute little ruffle. I love me some ruffles! So I took a seam ripper to the tie and removed it from the neckline of the tank top.

I was left with two raw edges – one along the neckline, the other on the tie, where it was attached to the neckline. I finished the neckline by just turning the raw edge under once, and stitching it down with a narrow zig zag stitch.

hole left in tie hole closed with blind stitcha165space

step two: close the hole
For my plan to work, I needed finished edges all around the tie. So I turned it inside-out, and sewed the raw edge closed (using a zig zag stitch – my serger is in my closet and stays there), where it used to be attached to the neckline.

I left a small hole so I could turn it right-side out again, and then closed that hole with a blind stitch (see? invisible!).

double line of basting stitches down the center finished ruffle a165space

step three: make the ruffle
Now to turn the tie into a ruffle! I ran two long basting stitches right down the center of the tie, and then gathered them to create a full, tight ruffle.

My plan was to stitch it along the neckline, right down the center like a tuxedo ruffle. But naturally, after gathering into a ruffle, the tie wasn’t long enough to reach all the way around the neckline…what to do?

finished back collar

step four: applying the ruffle
I decided I really only needed the ruffle to go along the front V of the neckline.

With a little bit of time with my tape measure, I figured out how much of the tie needed to be flat to lay against the back neckline, and how much needed to be ruffled to decorate the front V neck.

Then I pinned and sewed the ruffle to the neckline, using a narrow zig zag stitch right down the center of the ruffle. Along the neckline, the flattened tie folded over to form a narrow little collar. Adorable!

finished top with new ruffled neckline

after: cute top with ruffled neckline!
The finished shirt is so much cuter, and something I’m much happier to wear, because it feels so much more like me! And it was super easy to do…I didn’t even need any additional fabric or notions.

Do you have anything in your closet that you sort of like, but that you know you could LOVE? That would be absolutely perfect and fun to wear, if only…?


summer skirt refashioned from old dress shirts

It seemed like last week was dress shirt refashion week on Pinterest…I came across several really cute ones, including this one inspired by Grosgrain.

They got me thinking about all the dress shirts sitting in my closet left over from my office job days. I should really do something with those, I thought. Here’s the end result:

finished refashioned skirt

I used three shirts – two long sleeved and one short sleeved, all shades of blue. The long sleeved ones were striped and the other was solid.

These guys were workhorses of my business casual wardrobe, especially when I was under 30 and still making an effort to look professional and grown up. I particularly loved to wear the dark blue one with a black jacket with a very sharp collar and lab-coat length hem (remember those!?).

blue striped shirt BEFORE a165space light blue striped shirt BEFORE


I wanted a pull-on skirt with an elastic waist, that was wider and fuller than the tutorials I had seen. I wanted the end result to be very casual and patchwork-y.

I decided on a gored skirt that would showcase the different stripes, and a 3 inch wide elastic waistband that would show off the gathers at the waist.

Three shirts that were mostly the same size meant I’d have twelve gores, four from each shirt. The long sleeves from two of the shirts would become the waist band.

three shirts = twelve parts

The first step was to cut the shirts into parts. I cut off the sleeves, cuffs, and collars, but kept the button plackets in place. I thought it would look cute on the final skirt to leave the buttons visible.

I also picked out any bust or back darts with a seam ripper so the fabric would lie flat as possible.

The next step was to make a pattern for my skirt gores.

skirt gore template

drafting your pattern
For a wide, flippy gored skirt, each gore should be a trapezoid shape. You only need three measurements to draft this pattern: how long your skirt will be (A), your waist measurement divided by how many gores you have (B), and how wide you want your skirt hem to be divided by how many gores you have (C). Don’t forget to add seam and hem allowances!

a word on the waistline
A gathered skirt needs a waistband that is bigger than your actual waist. How much bigger depends on how full you want your skirt to be. For a nice full skirt, try 150% of your waist measurement. So, if your waist = 30 inches, your skirt waistband = 45 inches. On your pattern, B = 3.75 inches (45 divided by 12, or the number of gores in your skirt) + seam allowances.

pattern layout on shirt remnant

I laid out my pattern on my shirt parts at an angle, because I wanted to preserve the button plackets.

Once I had all twelve gores cut, I spent some time arranging them in a pleasing order, since I had three different fabrics going – two different stripes and a solid.

skirt gores in a pleasing arrangement

I decided to keep the buttons showing, but to sew over the button holes…which meant my twelve gores were no longer identical sizes.

This didn’t bother me, since I was going for a casual patchwork look. But if you wanted your gores to be identical, this is something you’d deal with at the cutting and layout stage

Because I topstitched the shirt parts with the buttons attached, if I wanted them to be the same size as the other gores, I would have cut them without a seam allowance on that side.


Once all twelve gores were sewn together, the next step was to prepare the fabric waistband. The long sleeves from two of the shirts were perfect for this job!

I cut open the sleeve seams, and cut them into identical rectangles 6.5″ wide. I needed fabric that would cover both sides of my 3″ wide elastic, plus seam allowance to stitch to the skirt itself.

After stitching on the waistband, I then sewed the last seam on the skirt, joining the gores on each end and the waistband, so I had a complete skirt, although one that was not yet wearable.

attach the waistband a165space a waistband 150% the size of my waist!

You see how huge my waistband looked! The next step was to insert the elastic into the fabric waistband.

preparing the elastic waistband
Before I got to gathering the skirt, I needed to prepare my elastic waistband. You can use this technique for any elastic waistband…you don’t even need to measure your waist!

1. Wrap a length of elastic around your waist where you’d like your skirt to sit, making sure to stretch the elastic so it is snug enough to keep the skirt on you, (but not too tightly!), and overlap the ends 1″. Snip. Now you have a length of elastic that will form your waistband.

2. Overlap the ends of the elastic 1″ and sew them together with a zig zag stitch over both raw edges. Now you have a closed circle of elastic.

stitch ends of elastic band together

Now I needed reference points on my elastic and on the fabric waistband of the skirt, so I could match them up to sew together, since the skirt is significantly bigger than the elastic. The easiest way to do this is with evenly spaced pins. Check it:

3. Fold your elastic band flat in half, and place a pin at each end. Imagine that these mark the side seams of your skirt.

4. Then fold your elastic band flat the other way, so that the two pins meet in the middle. Now imagine that these pins mark the center front and center back of your skirt.

mark one end of the elastic band with a pin a165space make the pins in each end meet in the center

Place two more pins in each end of the elastic band. Now you have four evenly spaced pins, marking each side seam and the center front and center back.

5. Next, make the front center pin meet one of the side seam pins, and the back center pin meet the other side seam pin. Then use two more pins to mark the new side seams.

Repeat the process until you have eight evenly spaced pins (without measuring)!

eight evenly spaced pins

making the skirt fit the elastic waistband
Time to put the gathers in! This part is just like making ruffles…I used the longest basting stitch on my machine to put in two stitch lines all around the top of the fabric waistband of my skirt, 3/8″ apart.

If you want to take these stitches out later, I recommend using a contrasting color thread, so they’re easy to pick out. I used the same color thread since I planned on leaving them in.

long basting stitches

The next step was to mark the skirt with pins, using the same technique I used on the elastic band, so I had eight evenly spaced pins all around the top of my skirt.

After the skirt was properly pinned, I gently pulled on the basting threads to gather the skirt slightly, making sure the gathers were evenly spaced all around the skirt.

matching pins in the skirt to the elastic

Then, I matched the pins in the skirt to the pins in the elastic band, pulling on the basting stitches to gather the skirt evenly between each set of pins.

Once the skirt was gathered enough to fit the elastic band exactly, I secured them together with more pins, and sewed them together along the top edge, using a nice wide zig zag stitch.

waistband gathered and stitched to the elastic

Lovely! Look at all those pretty gathers!

Now, the next step was to fold the elastic over, so that the top edge of the elastic (now sewn to the gathered edge of the skirt waistband) met the inside seam where the skirt was sewn to the fabric waistband.

But the skirt was still bigger than the elastic waistband down there, so I needed another basting stitch in order to do more gathering.

This time, I used red thread, because I knew I wanted to take this stitch out after the gathering was done, and the elastic was sewn in place.

another long basting stitch

This step was a little bit tricky, because I had no pins to guide me, but I just eyeballed it…I pulled on the red basting stitch until the fabric was gathered enough so the elastic waistband could meet the top seam of the skirt neatly.

I pinned the elastic to the skirt all the way around, making sure the gathers were as even as I could make them. Then I sewed it in place, again using a zig zag stitch.

waistband gathered and pinned and waiting to be sewn

Finito! The last step was to remove the red basting stitch, and my skirt was ready to wear!

I may go back and even out the hem, but honestly I probably won’t. I didn’t cut off the shirt hems when I was cutting the skirt gores, so the finished skirt hem is all uneven and wonky, but I kind of like it that way.

wonky hem

You can never have too many fun summer skirts!

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new life for an old sweater

A few weeks ago, I saw a t-shirt refashion in a craft magazine, and was inspired to apply its techniques to a little red sweater that I’ve had forever, but is now tragically too small. Here’s the end result:

finished shawl front sweater

The t-shirt refashion took two over-sized t-shirts and turned them into a single, shawl-front cardigan. I thought it might be cool to start with a fitted sweater instead of an over-sized shirt, and then the final product would be more fitted, too.

Instead of 2 t-shirts, I used this old red sweater and a pair of knit pants in a black and white herringbone pattern. These two are relics from my black-and-white-and-red phase (many years ago, now), in which nearly everything I owned that wasn’t denim or black was bright red.

red sweater before refashion black and white pants before refashion



The sweater is way too small for me now, and the pants never quite fit right anyway. Both are made from a cotton/poly blend medium-weight knit, of very similar textures. Over a long sleeve shirt, this cardigan will be pretty cozy! A great layer for fall, winter, and the chilly beginnings of spring.

All you need for this refashion is a top you’re not wearing, and 2 rectangles of similar fabric…the whole project took me two hours, including pausing to take pictures!

cut down the center front

step one
Cut your sweater down the center front, and then shave off the pointed top of the neckline. I sketched the curve using tailor’s chalk, but if you wanted to be precise, you could use a french curve to measure and mark it before you cut.

To make sure both sides come out identical, fold the sweater in half, matching the shoulder seams, and use the curve you cut on the first side as a guide for cutting the second side.

step two: cut off the pant leg

step two
Cut your strips of fabric that will become the shawl – they need to be two rectangles of the same length and width. Mine ended up being 8.75″ wide and 29″ long.

If you were using thinner fabric, I think a wider rectangle would be better. The length depends on the length of your original top, and if you want the ends of the shawl to extend below the hem of the top.

I used one pant leg from the herringbone pants. After cutting it off at the crotch, I cut open both side seams, and trimmed the remaining fabric carefully until they were rectangular in shape and matched in size (I realized after I took this picture that they weren’t quite the same size yet). I recommend ironing your fabric before your final trim to get the most accurate cut!

I kept the hem of the pants intact, to use as the hem of the shawl.

french seam

step three
Join the two rectangles to form one long strip of fabric.

Use a french seam for the nicest finish. French seams are super easy and look very neat. First, pin your fabric wrong sides together, and sew using a seam allowance slightly smaller than you normally use.

Then, fold the fabric along the seam with right sides together, press it flat with a hot iron, then sew together using your usual seam allowance. This encloses the raw edges inside the seam ~ lovely!

As a final step, I stitched down the finished seam allowance, giving it the look of a flat-felled seam. Because the knit is kind of bulky, I thought the seam would look nicer stitched down.

finished edge of shawl

step four
Finish one long edge of the shawl. On the original t-shirt refashion, they left the edges of the t-shirt raw, but I didn’t think that would look right with this project, plus the herringbone knit was too loose not to unravel.

If you have a serger, now would be a good time to bust it out. My serger lives in a box in my closet and never comes out, so I just used a narrow zigzag stitch to finish the raw edge, and then turned it in 3/8″ and stitched it down.

I recommend pressing the edge in with a hot iron before you sew. It will help keep it in place while you stitch, especially with a slightly bulky knit like this.

finished refashioned shawl front cardigan

the final step
Attach the raw edge of the shawl to the sweater, again using a french seam. Start pinning the shawl to the sweater by lining up the center of the shawl, with the center back neckline of the sweater. This way the ends of the shawl will be even on both sides.

My shawl turned out being the exact same length as the sweater, but I think it would look great if it were a bit longer, and perhaps cut at an angle.

I really liked how this turned out! At a mere two hour time investment, this is practically instant gratification. I’m definitely going to be using this treatment again!

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how to save a cashmere sweater

I was gifted a black cashmere sweater many winters ago, and I have never worn it. It’s a damn shame, too, because I’m cryophobic and I need a winter wardrobe well-stocked with warm sweaters.

But it was an awkward shape – it had a very high crew neck, and ribbing across the hem and at the cuffs – all things that look terrible on me. So, it sat in my closet, unworn, for at least 3 winters. Then I decided to get out my scissors!

cut off the ribbed cuffs

I figured this was a zero-risk refashion: I wasn’t wearing the sweater anyway, so if I totally botched it, I haven’t really lost anything, right? So I started snipping. The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to get rid of the ribbing.

I cut off the ribbed cuffs and hem, and snipped a slightly lower, scooped neckline. I stitched a zig zag along where I planned to cut before I did the cutting, so the sweater wouldn’t unravel on me, and also to make sure my cuts were even.


new scoop neck sketched out and pinned knit trim for my sweater refashion a165space


I wanted to make my final product slightly more interesting than a plain black sweater, so I thought I’d add some kind of edging around the new neckline, cuffs, and hem. I had a vague vision of a gray border with purple piping trim. I used cotton jersey for both trims, and thick cotton yarn for the piping.

Making your own custom piping is actually pretty easy, you just need bias-cut fabric (or stretchy knit, like I used), some yarn with a bit of body for the piping, and your trusty zipper foot.

using your zipper foot to make piping custom made piping a165space


Since I did absolutely no planning or sketching before I started this project (not the best approach ever, I’ll admit), the rest of this refashion was a bit of experimentation.

First I applied the piping about 2″ away from the neckline, and then tried a few different techniques to fill in with the gray cotton jersey. Eventually I came up with this slightly gathered look, which was not my original (admittedly very vague) vision, but that I am mostly happy with.

I echoed the look with a narrower, straight edge on the cuffs and hem.


the new necklinethe new cuffs and hem a165space


The new neckline looks much better on me, and in general this sweater has become something I’d like to actually wear, rather than something that just takes up space in my closet. I may add a flower or something to the neckline; maybe not.

What do you think? Let me know if you try a similar refashion! Don’t let your sweaters sit in your closet unworn and lonely, cut them up and make them wearable again!