Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We laugh at winter!

So. Back to the recons. I thought it would be fun to make some winter T-shirts for my little guy that feature warm tourist destinations and bright colors. Here is his Bahamas shirt:

This started out as a thrifted souvenir T-shirt, and a striped turtleneck. I used Kwik Sew 3149, downloaded and printed from I did not want to mess with a hem, so I serged on a band at the bottom instead. I got an EZY Hem from my MIL for Christmas, so I'll be doing some actual hems soon.
This will make the job so much easier!

I will be making more funky tourist shirts over the winter. Give it a try---it's fun and will cheer you up.

Disposable clothing...sigh.

Hi there! It's been a while.

I ended up really, really busy all fall, and let this blog fall by the wayside. Now I have more time to post recons and crafts. I did this one wayyy back in August, for a friend.

It is made from two Walmart shirts that were too short and very much unloved. I forgot how blogger uploads pics, so my photos are in a reverse timeline from finish to start. Next time I'll get it right. Sorry about that. In the photo below, I'm cutting off a section of the metallic stripey shirt to made super-long sleeves. I serged these to the green sleeves.

Annnnd going back further, I cut the green shirt in half, and cut away part of the sleeve.

I cut away the flimsy-looking lace trim, and later added a v-neck collar made from part of the stripey shirt.

This is Seymour, my highly-dedicated feline assistant. No sewing project can be done without him laying on it. Ever.

Back to square one. These are the shirts. They both are from Walmart and they both have issues. The green one is one of their "George" line, and it is a super-lightwieght jersey. Not really suited to this project, but I'm a rebel. The green jersey has no body at all, and is very limp. It is basically a disposable shirt because after a couple of washings, the lace looks like crap, due to the fact that the jersey is too soft to hold it in shape. Ugh. These things must be in landfills all over the place.
The stripey shirt is a "Faded Glory". At first glance, it seems okay, till you try it on and notice there is something vaguely not right about it. Nothing majorly wrong per se, just somethng about this shirt is "meh".
When I proceeded to cut it up, I found out what was wrong. The back of the shirt has the knit facing upside down. It is not readily apparent unless you are really looking for it. Doubtless hundreds, maybe thousands, of this shirt model were made the same way. Why? To save money.
I used to work in the garment industry, and the cutting crew would lay out rows of fabric to cut out all at once with a computerized saw. Our factory could cut as many as 48 of the same pattern piece at once this way, with pattern pieces going down a steel table that was almost as long as the building itself. We did have a lot of waste from making sure the pattern peices all were cut on the grain and right-side up. That could not be helped in order to make a quality product. What Walmart did with this top is choose to make them cheaper by turning some pieces upside down to make them fit more onto the same amount of yardage. While it's good not to be wasteful, the result was a top that only gets worn a little bit, before people decide they don't like it and it goes to the thrift shop or off to the landfill.
I learned that it is not a good idea to try and set a V-neck collar into such a thin jersey, but it was a great learning experience.
I'll still try to recycle Walmart clothes from time to time, but I expect to be frustrated. I will think long and hard about buying anything new from them. Right now I'm in the Wardrobe Refashion, and I signed up for another six months, so I'm saved from new Walmart clothes for now. Yay! :o)
Here's the blog:
Happy New Year to all, and keep recycling! :o)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ongoing battle with the Maddy top

I love Burdastyle's Maddy top, and I've never made anything like it before. So far, I've put together two practice Maddies, niether one of them wearable. I'm not ready to give up yet, and hope to have a third one cut out later today.

The pattern:

This is my first Maddy. I wanted to eliminate the zip, so I tried making the top out of knit. I used a vintage 1970's navy and white dotted fabric. This top actually fits pretty well, and the knit makes the zip unneeded. The problem is that the second I stepped out the door and into the searingly humid Missouri midsummer heat, I was reminded of why polyester was the bane of my seventies childhood. The fabric made me incredibly uncomfortable and sweaty. It felt like I had a garbage bag wrapped around my torso. Ick.

Enter the second top, made out of a vintage cotton piece of yardage from the thrift store and a bit of pink quilting fabric. The vintage fabric had faded spots that I tried to cut around. About that zipper---I thought I had a zipper foot for my machine. If I did, it is long gone. Since I have never put a zip in anything since I was 15 years old and in home economics class, I never noticed it was gone. Heh. Anyhow, I attemped to put in the zip with a regular presser foot. It worked---kinda. The seam is a little further out than I'd like, but the real issue here is that I put the zip in too high. The poor thing looks like it's trying to escape this garment! Haha! I may pick it out later and put in a blue zip with a real zipper foot. Even though this zipper placement sucks, I'm no longer scared of putting them in, and once I either get a new machine (needed soon), or find a zipper foot for a 1992 slant shank Singer, I'll be doing many more zippers. Lower down, of course. The point is that zippers are easier than I thought. :o)

The tops were both made in size 48 and both fit me.

Behold the neck pokey zipper!
The next Maddy will be a newer knit, in a cotton blend, with the insert being a paisley quilting scrap. I think I might be a glutton for punishment because this knit may be tough to gather. Oh well. Maddy works best as a knit top for me right now. I like the idea of a pretty print for the center, and I can't find many novelty knits here in the middle of nowhere. So we'll see how the combo of woven insert and knit top goes.

Maybe by next week I'll have a wearable Maddy.

Happy sewing!


Clothes for my toddler boy from old polo shirts

Hi again. I'm going to make every effort to get caught up on posting my projects here and on Wardrobe Refashion this weekend. Last month, I mentioned that I was waiting for a LEKO software pattern from It got lost in the mail and they sent a second copy which arrived last week. I've just begun to play with it, but made this shirt for my youngest out of polo shirt fabric scraps. There are parts from three different shirts in this project, and it fit him really well. I got lazy with the hem and didn't press before sewing, so it's a little wavy, but not too bad. I think I might add a little length to to pattern for my guy, though. He is long-waisted, like me. Here's another ex-polo shirt, with bands made from an old turtleneck. I've learned that turtlenecks make great neck and sleeve ribbing for T shirts. They have a lot of stretch, are soft because of the cotton cottent, and most importantly, are easy to find in the closet or at the thrift store in any color you might want! Suggestion: Make a test neckband to pull over your head before setting your collar to make sure you've picked a knit with enough give to it. So far I've had no problems with that, but that might just be luck. :)

This shirt hides juice stains really well! It's a busy black and white knit that looked horrible in the original men's polo shirt, but works well as a ringer tee.
I haven't sewn these yet, but the turtleneck will yield up a soft pair of play shorts to wear with the above shirt.
Here's that red and white polo fabric again:
And again, in a shirt for my eight year old. He wanted a red white and blue shirt, and we raided our old clothes for the blue tie dyed shirt. This was a test of the LEKO pattern software for his measurments, and it came out as a perfect fit for him. I think the software will work best for a child from about age 6-10. I'm still not ready to write a review of it, and have had less than stellar results with some of their free downloads for grownups (but I'm an odd set of measurements!). You can check it out here, if you like. The price is not bad:
This is the shirt my son is wearing in the action shot.

Thes pics ended up out of order, but this is how I cut out another shirt from a humongous polo shirt with a logo on the front. By folding both sides in to the center, I was able to make both the front and back sections out of the front of the shirt. You can't see it here, but the placket and the logo are above the section where I cut. It was a wide and boxy men's XL. This shirt ended up as a ringer T with black from the turtleneck I've been dicing up, and I will embellish it with a stencil or an applique later on. I was going to use the decorative knit from the original shirt on the bottom hem, but later chose not to.
See how far off the grain the polo was originally cut? Stuff like this makes me feel soooo much better about my nascent sewing skills...
I made shorts out of the same shirt... The grain was way off on the sleeves of the original shirt, but I lined it up and got his sleeves from this piece.
Here, I am using the sleeves of the turtleneck for sleevebands!

The ugly old victim shirt.
I have been noticing that a lot of boy clothes are made out of polo pique. It wears like iron! I will definitely be making more polo shirt creations. I have some new victim shirts lined up and ready to cut up. Sorry for the inevitable typos I may not have caught in this post. I'm posting pre-coffee this morning.
Happy sewing!

I love Threadbanger tutorials!

Oh my goodness, I have a lot to catch up on. I've been sewing and crafting, but not getting things posted. I'll start out with the rockstar shirt I made for my 16 year old. Above, this is what the finished shirt looks like after a trip though the washer and dryer. I wish I had better photos, but my son ran off with his new shirt before I was able to get them. This is a crappy nightime shot with an older camera. Later on I'll post an action shot. He has already worn it several times since I gave it to him.

I used the fabulous tute over here:

I did not have two matching T-shirts at home, so I grabbed two shades of red off of the 25-cent table at the thrift store. Once I got the shirts set up and marked off the 2-inch intervals, the sewing went really fast! I placed my finger behind the pressor foot at intervals to build a little stretch onto the sewing. I wasn't worried about how even my stitches would look, since most of them would end up hidden anyhow. I wanted to do what I could to make this project durable enough for a young rocker who may not always be gentle with his clothing. This technique is called "crimping" or "crowding" the fabric, and it builds in a little ease. I'll take a picture of me doing this sometime in the future. It's a super-helpful technique.

Below is the shirt right after I finished cutting it, and before I washed out the marking pen. I was so thrilled to be able to make something that my kid would wear and enjoy. I will be making him a couple more of these in time for school. He says that in the fall he'll layer them on top of a long-sleeved shirt. He wants a black and gray one, and I'm also going to experiment with putting a stencil (maybe a guitar or a skull) on the inner shirt so it will be peeking though the cut away sections.

This project was fun, quick and satisfying. Give it a try!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Wedgies no more! A quick toddler suit recon.

I've had this idea in my head for some time now, and I finally got around to giving it a try. I have noticed that all my boys got longer before they got wider as toddlers, and bodysuits that would otherwise fit them would give them wedgies when snapped together at the bottom. I used to take the suits up to the thrift shop to donate them, and hope I could find longer ones. My kids were all long-waisted as little ones, and it is really hard to find bodysuits for my youngest, who has a really long waist. I got the idea that I could just serge in a piece of knit to make the suits long enough to make my little guy comfy while playing. I'm still on the learning curve with sewing knits, but more or less ended up with the results I wanted.

My pictures ended up a bit out of order, and I'm not sure how to fix that yet, so here we are with the finished product:

I decided it needed to be topstitched down in some way, or the serged seams might bother baby. I used a zigzag stitch, and it's not as neat as I'd like. I need to buy a twin needle as soon as I can find one. In any case, baby likes it, and that's what matters the most.
No more wedgies!

Here is the wedgie suit. It fits him from side to side, but it is too short to snap shut without causing discomfort and making his diaper smoosh to one side. Poor little guy, he can't wear this thing anymore...

I picked a spot to cut it, and decided a four-inch wide strip of knit would correct the problem. I used new knit from my yardage stash, but a used shirt would have been better, because it would have been preshrunk and presumably softer as well. But it's the fourth of July, and I wanted to fix this little suit today. The suit has some small faded juice stains on it and isn't in perfect condition, so it made a good victim for experimentation.
I cut the knit to match the garment's width, and serged the new section of knit together at the sides.
Matching seam to seam, I serged it to the top section, right sides together.

It is hard to make sure that the seams line up exactly, but if you go slowly, you can get them pretty close. In any case, chances are no one will ever notice.
Adding the bottom of the suit. I had to remind myself to make sure I that kept the butt in the back. :o)
Here is the finished suit before topstitching. If my blue knit had been a little softer, I would have left it alone, but I felt like it would irritate baby if it was not stitched down flat to garment's inside.
I am so going to try this again. We really like toddler playsuits that have the bottom snaps. Now we can keep them for a while longer.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I took the pledge!

Hopefully the button will work...

I, LaughingLark, pledge that I shall abstain from the purchase of "new" manufactured items of clothing, for the period of 6 months. I pledge that I shall refashion, renovate, recycle preloved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract. I pledge that I will share the love and post a photo of my refashioned, renovated, recycled, crafted or created item of clothing on the Wardrobe Refashion blog, so that others may share the joy that thy thriftyness brings! Signed, LaughingLark.

I am very excited about this! I'm already planning my next refashion...

Big doesn’t have to be boring!

Oh my! I have discovered the joy of bleach-stenciling with freezer paper! This shirt is the union of a big teal turtleneck (nearly 100% cotton), and a stretchy metallic turtleneck from the thrift shop. Each cost me twenty-five cents.

I wanted to give T-shirt stenciling a try, but I don’t have a lot of time to cut out a detailed stencil. I had been looking at mandalas for my son to color the other day, and I got to thinking that it would be cool to stencil or paint one on the side of a shirt, and I may do that someday, but for the time being I wanted something more “immediate gratification” that I could get done in an evening. Enter the snowflake shirt…

I cut apart my huge cotton turtleneck, with no help from the cat, and then the fun began.

What I did here is the same as what we all used to do at Christmastime in primary school: cut snowflake decorations out of paper. Only, in my case, I used a piece of freezer paper and tried to keep the design more flowerlike and less “snowflaky”. I added some butterflies for the heck of it. Then I cut my giant snowflake in half.

Moving on, I took a big piece of freezer paper, and ironed it, shiny side to fabric, to the back of my cut-apart shirt front section, then I flipped it right side up. I then positioned my two pieces of flower/snowflake/whatever where I wanted them, and ironed them to the shirt, shiny side down. I wish I’d taken some pictures of this process, but I was too eager to see how it would turn out. I may make a tute later on, if you like. It’ll be easier to write tutes when my son starts summer day camp next week. :)

I then took a spray bottle with bleach in it and misted some over the design. Then I got impatient and misted on more. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE! Less is more. If I had waited a minute or two more, the bleach would have started to do its thing just fine. Since I sprayed on too much, it bled under my paper, blurring my design. Sigh…

I worked right next to my kitchen sink, and as soon as the color faded as much as I wanted, I started rinsing, rinsing, rinsing as fast as I could. Then I filled the sink about halfway, and dumped in a bottle of hydrogen peroxide 3% to neutralize the last of the
bleach. Some websites tell people to use vinegar to stop the bleach, but that produces chlorine gas. Don’t do it! Maybe those folks work outside, or have rinsed super-carefully, but vinegar just isn’t safe.

After a short soak in the hydrogen peroxide and water, into the washer it went. While washing and drying, I picked a pattern and cut out the rest of my shirt parts. I wanted to be done before going to bed.
I forgot to take off my pedometer for the picture, and right after this pic I went for my walk. The pedometer will be my friend for the next few months.
I got it done in an evening, and it was super-easy. I’ll make more snowflake/medallion shirts because they are fun, fast and cheap! I think I might just put the next design on one side of the shirt, though. Or maybe up around the collar area. In any case, there will be more of them.

Thanks for looking!


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Little boy's play outfit recon

Today was my eight year old son’s birthday, and I blew my diet so badly that I’ll have to sew and craft like a madwoman for the next few days to keep my mind off of food. The day went really well, and the birthday boy was delighted with his loot.

As an extra gift, I tried to surprise Owen with a sleeveless tank top that I sewed up this morning, but I messed up on the sleeves. I cut the binding a little to short, and it make the armholes pucker. I cut it out really late last night, and I must’ve been thinking about how cuffs and collars should be smaller than the opening---not so with armholes on a tank top! He has been asking for sleeveless shirts, so I’ll try again, and refashion his botched shirt into a smaller version for my littlest guy.

Here is my 21 month old boy's new outfit, refashioned from old clothes and a bit of green jersey. I’m still working out the details, but this is the first try. As I cut out the T-shirt front, I discovered that the printed section was not a perfect circle. I dealt with the wonkiness of it as best I could. Oh well, it's my first muslin and he'll have grape juice on it soon enough. :o)

I was trying to go for something like a bicycle-short length, but they ended up more like capris.

For the shirt, I used an old painting Tshirt of mine, and made a pattern for him from a Tshirt that fits him. My shirt is about 14 years old and has some paint and ink on it, but it made a good practice garment. No worries about wasting money screwing up some good fabric. The little shorts are made from an unloved black turtleneck. They turned out a bit longer than I had planned, but I guess they do protect his knees a bit as he plays. ;o) The next pair won't be quite as long. The jersey made for turtlenecks is wonderfully soft for comfy toddler clothes. I'll be looking for a few more wardrobe rejects to make into playclothes for my little guy. I think I’ll make a black shirt to go with the shorts. Maybe with an appliqué in the green.

The other project here is the top from a sleep set I made for my eight year old son a few days ago. It is made from an old touristy shirt. It was a test pattern. The next ones I make for him will be more boyish; I raided my own wardrobe for a shirt to practice on. The set has shorts made from the green jersey fabric that did not make it into the photo since they are in the washer right now. This outfit has been worn and washed once already.

I’m not entirely happy with how baggy this pattern worked up. I’ll try it again with a men’s t-shirt from the thrift shop, and maybe make it a size smaller.

Excuse the wrinkles: it just came out of the dryer.

I ordered one of the LEKO software patterns for children last week, and I'm eagerly awaiting it's arrival. If the software works out, I should be able to really start stashbusting my kid fabrics. I also ordered the test demo CD for me.

I'll post later on my adventures with LEKO later on this summer. They can't be too much more hit and miss than the big four pattern companies...I hope. :o)

FrankenClothes, round one!

Hi there, I’m new around here! I’ll be blogging about my sewing projects from thrift shop materials, and also some occasional beadwork projects. I’m primarily a jewelry-maker, but I have been throwing myself into sewing with a vengeance lately. I’ll share my discoveries and pitfalls here.

A couple for weeks ago, I saw this great tip over on T-shirt Surgery and decided I had to try it. I'm currently over two hundred pounds and very bored with my clothes, and my clothing choices. I'm trying to lose weight, and don't want to spend much on clothes that I hope to shrink out of, so “frankenclothes” it is! It is proving to be addictive, and I'm really going to throw myself into reconning and post my results here.

I made these shirts from boring solid-color plus-sized shirts, with newly-added raglan sleeves from the tute below. I used whatever printed knits I could find at the thrift shop on the 25 cent rack for the sleeves. I couldn't wait to try it! The size of the shirts I used for the sleeves was not as crucial, and anything medium and up worked great. Now that I've met with some success, I'll look for more fun knits to use on the sleeves. Look for more interesting shirts here soon, as I find the thrifted goods to make them!

Baseball sleeve tutorial here:

I cut all the way up into the collar, since I planned on adding serged-in collars of my own anyhow. (When you cut a collar, make sure it is smaller than the neckhole, so it will not look floppy. I learned that the hard way.)

Without further ado, the shirts! These are my first recon attempts, and you can see the learning process.

Here are my first two victims---an unfinished vintagy sewing project from the seventies, and a nineties shirt with a floppy-looking collar:

The after shot. I think I'm not done with this. I left the zipper on, but I hate it. I think this will reappear later with a v-neck, and I'll wear a tank under it, since it will be pretty low. Lower than bra-line. It fits really well, despite the neckline issues.

This one makes me happy! It has issues from the different weights of knit material used, but I still like it. The sleeves and collar are made from a sparkly lightwieght knit, and the body of the tunic is from an ugly polo shirt in a pretty color. I cut away the collar and button placket, gave it a V-neck and put in a collar with an overlapped front. I used the sleeves from the polo shirt as a pattern for new sleeves. I did not topstitch any of it, because I thought it would get puckery-looking as a result. I still have more of the sparkly knit, and will revisit this idea once I get another shirt to try for the body.

Closer look at the collar. It's not as wonky as it looks. My 21-month old son was helping me by moving the shirt around while I took pictures. :)

This one is a plain cream-colored shirt with a tropical strecth knit for the sleeves. The neckline ended up higher that I like, but it fits. I don't have enough of the knit left to make another palm-tree collar, but may remake the collar in blue, once I dig up a scrap of knit I like.

I really liked this one. Then I topstiched it and ruined it. I used a zig-zag, but it still puckered up a lot. The body of the shirt is a lycra blend, and maybe that is why. This collar is coming off soon. Alas, this shirt ended up too small across the tummy. I'm hoping to fit into it by fall. I'll replace the collar, maybe with a v-neck.

Thanks for looking at my humble efforts!

I hope to have some little boy clothes recons to post soon.