Alteration 101: How to Make a T-Shirt Dress Bigger

0.alteration101dress_introphotoHello all!

I apologize for my week-long absence…things have been just crazy with Lil Tot going back to school and getting back into the school routine. And I have an announcement to make soon – can’t wait to share!

alteration101dress_done4I snapped up a Stylestalker Space Jam T-shirt style dress from Shopbop in February – I just couldn’t pass up the cool pattern on it. (All it needs is a kitten shooting rainbows out of its eyes and then its the perfect Dark Side of the Moon-style CD album artwork. Or something like that.)       alteration101dress_materials Unfortunately it was the last dress left and at a size 4 it was a little too tight here and there on me (at the time in February). The mantra I live by:

So I went about to alter it to be a little more skimming, and here’s how you could do the same to a straight-shaped dress that just needs a little extra something:

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The 12 Must-Have Tools for Sewing DIY’s

musthavetools_sewing1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12

Earlier I shared my must-have list for jewelry DIY projects. And now I’m following up with this list for sewing DIY projects! (These Must-Have Tools for DIY lists are on my DIY Resources page if you’re looking for them.)

My mother taught me to sew back when I was 8 or 9 or so. My first project was a lopsided white stuffed bear with a face that looked both happy and sad at the same time. Since then, I’ve graduated to using and eventually purchasing a serger, learning how to use an industrial sewing machine, and even sewing my prototypes for my short-lived clothing line back in 2007. I love using patterns and making patterns, stitching things together from scratch and upcycling pieces, and basically letting my imagination run wild. Some of my favorite projects that I’ve shared on this blog have been my Cute Summer ShirtDress (the very project that launched my focus on DIY here on Chic Steals!), my Men’s XLSweatshirts to Blouson Top project, and more recently my Ballroom Skirt from a Shower Curtain. Here is my recommended list of really great tools for DIY Sewing Projects:

1. Seam Ripper

You.Must.Have.A.Seam.Ripper. You need it to rip back or to take apart pieces to be cannibalized, to fix stitches…this is vital to creating a perfectly-sewn piece (even if it didn’t work out the first time around).

2. Rotary Cutter

Perfect for cutting uber-straight lines, this is my favorite tool to get things cut out in a flash. (Don’t forget the cutting mat to go with it!) I like the OLFA but Fiskars makes a good version too.

3. Chalk Pencil

This marking pencil is my absolute favorite since it makes super-precise lines and works just like a mechanical pencil. LOVE.

4. Extra Bobbins + Bobbin Case

Who ever has enough bobbins when they’re sewing?? (I’ve been known to wind a new color thread on top of a half-filled bobbin when I’ve run it…which is definitely not a best practice.) Though you of course have to get the correct type for your machine, these ones are my favorite for my Singer. Plus a little case to keep them in will keep them neat and tidy instead of a tangled mess!

5. Sharp, Sharp Sewing Scissors

El-cheapo scissors won’t cut it (literally) if you do a lot of cutting and sewing. Prepare to spend around $30+ for an excellent pair of Gingher or Singer scissors, and they will last you a lifetime. (Just never, ever, EVER cut anything else besides fabric with them [especially paper]…this will dull them like nobody’s business.

6. Sharp, Sharp Pins + Emery-filled Pincushion

I’ve found that certain “decorative”-style pins aren’t all that sharp, and the round-headed ones tend to cause bumps when pinning a pattern to fabric in order to cut. I prefer the extra-sharp flower-headed pins so the pattern isn’t puckering and lifting, and they don’t get in the way of the machine foot so much. Plus an emery-filled pincushion to keep them all corralled is a must. You can also DIY your emery pincushion by following a tutorial here.

7. Hem Tape

Though I prefer to sew whenever possible, some stitchery DIY’s can be accomplished quite easily with permanent Hem Tape instead. (See my DIY J. Crew Sporty Pants and my DIY Windowpane Sweatshirt for example.) This hem tape is just great.

8. Curved Nail Scissors

I love love love these scissors! (They also appear on my Must-Have Tools for Jewelry DIY’ing list.) That’s how much I love them! They work great as thread snips if you don’t feel like investing in those, and help you poke holes and cut perfect buttonholes (just be careful of the curved edges).

9. Pattern Notcher

I fell in love with this tool when creating my clothing line, and again at the clothing factory I interned at in Portland. Normally you’d notch your patterns and fabric at center front and center back, and when matching sleeves. I don’t like using the scissors to notch, because often the cut is not easily visible in the fabric, and sometimes I notch too deeply, straight through the line of stitching. NOT GOOD. With a pattern notcher, it goes through the fabric in a lovely V- or rectangle shape and won’t go deeper than 1/4″, so no chance of ruining your stitching. It’s easy to see and looks professional, plus it can be used to notch the seam allowance of curved stitching. I LOVE IT and highly recommend it.

10. Pattern Weights

Usually I’d use any old thing laying around (my water glass, the sleeping dog, my glasses, the very scissors I actually need to cut with)…but having a group of dedicated pattern weights is extremely useful. You could of course DIY them and make them utterly cute, too.

11. Variety of Machine Feet

Though the project will often dictate what feet you need, I find myself reaching for the same ones over and over again. My Zipper Foot, Ruffler, Narrow Hem Foot, Butttonholer, and Teflon Foot (for leather/suede) help me stitch up a variety of projects with professional results. (the pack pictured is for low-shank machines)

12. Turn-It-All

I absolutely adore this kit I bought awhile ago. It’s for turning thin tubes of fabric (like for spaghetti straps, waist-ties, decorative tubing, and more). I often use the long thin metal rod in place of an awl for holding fabric under my machine foot, and for poking corners out and turning pieces right-side-out in general. I highly recommend this!

Any extra sewing tools that you can’t live without? Let me know in the comments!


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DIY Printed Flat-Bottom Zip Pouch (Samudra Style)

0.diytropicalzippouch_introphotoI’ve been loving all of the pouches made by Samudra: these beautiful, printed zip-cases that work so well for your most basic essentials – or that can dress up any outfit for a night on the town. I decided to create my own version of the zippered pouch – and to give it more structure, I designed it with a flat bottom (similar to the Samudra style). And to go the extra mile, I also designed my own photo-print fabric from a photo of palm trees that I took on a long-ago trip to Guam, and then edited to make perfectly seamless and repeating. (You can purchase this exact same fabric here – and it was just featured on Spoonflower’s Latest Favorites list on Friday!) Ready for the tutorial? Let’s go!

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DIY Vinyl Eyelash Applique T-Shirt

0.DIYeyelashappliquetshirt_introWow, that title looks weird when you write it out like that;-) But there’s really no other way to describe this!

Have you noticed that over the past year or so, there have been a ton of women’s tops that highlight the boobage area? Like this one, this one, or this one, for example. Perhaps Wildfox started it off with their double ice cream tees back in 2010. (I even made a similar DIY Ice Cream Applique Tee inspired by that very trend!)

However, I wanted to make something with stark contrast, that was a little slick and a little sweet at the same time.  Sleepy eyelash eye masks have always been a favorite of mine, so I decided to re-create that effect onto a T-shirt, with some shiny vinyl PVC.  It’s adorbs (and yes, highlights the chest area, LOL). And if you have a sewing machine, it’s so easy. Here’s how:

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Book Review: New Dress a Day by Marisa Lynch

New Dress a Day: The Ultimate DIY Guide to Creating Fashion Dos from Thrift-Store Don’ts is the book based on Marisa Lynch’s popular New Dress a Day blog.  In Summer 2009 Marisa lost her job, and in the interim of job-hunting and being bummed out, she happened to catch a screening of the movie Julie and Julia.  She left the theater inspired to do exactly what Julie Powell did: create a blog, and post a new recipe on it every day, for 365 days.  But her “recipes” would be not cooking but sewing projects: “dressipes” that she could whip up daily and show other people how to emulate.  And her choice of materials were thrifted items: the only things she allowed herself to purchase for the entire year.

By November 2010 her blog was receiving huge traffic, media requests poured in, and Marisa was suddenly a name all over upcyling, eco-friendly, fashion, and style blogs.  This book contains many of her most talked-about projects, as well as projects, tips, and ideas she’s never shared before, all punctuated with her unique sense of fun.

As you can tell, Marisa is a great model: photogenic, funny, and quirky.  The downside to this is that many shots of her finished creations are taken from unusual angles, cropped, or in poses so it’s hard to really get a sense of how the final project looks once done.  Some of the photos could be better quality.

The design of the book echoes the design of her blog: homsepun, cute, and stitchery-inspired.  She offers a HUGE variety of tips and tricks about refashioning garments, from small fixes and ideas to entirely overhauling the garments from the seams up.  Some ideas are not geared for the longevity of the garment (like using duct tape to hold a hem up); they’re more just as ideas for what you could do.

The book starts off with a lesson in the basics: sewing machine parts, stitch types, safety, and choosing the right needles.  Essential to any beginner to start with, or any expert who wants a refresher.  The majority of this book focuses on sewing, and it’s definitely geared towards people who are at least slightly comfortable with sewing (even if just by hand!) and are looking to learn a little more.  (There are some no-sew projects in the book, though.)  The projects Marisa shares are more jumping-off points for what you could do with garments you have or thrift; a compendium of ideas that could be applicable in many refashioning projects depending on what you do.  Unlike her blog, however, the steps in many projects are not fully or carefully photographed, so unless you already are familiar with the techniques being used, you might have some difficulty following along.

She includes sections on Accessories, Leftovers, and Trimmings, but judging by the number and results of the projects in those sections, it’s clear that her skillset lies more in the sewing and upcycling of garments into…well, better garments, rather than into small pieces and accessories.  Some of the finished garments may not be to one’s personal taste or look particularly modern (there is only so much you can do with polyester, after all!), but you can always take the techniques and ideas and apply them elsewhere.

The book is also chock-full of little stories, sayings, and vignettes from Marisa’s life that add to the feeling that she is truly sitting beside you, chatting with you as you work.  References to current and recent pop culture abound, which make for fun and current reading, but which could date this book quickly.  Flea-market shopping ideas, how-tos on how to fix mistakes, where to shop, and a project ideas section and mood board page make this potentially a useful resource for your future shopping outings and project planning.

Last but not least, seeing the author in her many ensembles and how she’s been styled can also give you some great ideas for how to style similar pieces in your own closet.

Rating:  (3 out of 4)

Overall: Amusing, entertaining, and full of ideas.  A little tough to follow in places unless you’re an intermediate sewist; project techniques sometimes limited to that specific cut/style of the piece.  But Marisa’s can-do attitude is infectious, and you’ll find yourself smiling by the last page…even if you use this book only as a technique reference in the future.

Have any of you guys checked out this book, or read Marisa’a blog?  What do you think?

FTC Disclaimer: I received one copy of the book New Dress a Day for review purposes.  I have not received any other compensation whatsoever.  The review and opinions above are my own.  To read more about my Disclosure Policy, click here.