Sunday, September 21, 2014

Upcycling Challenge!

I really thought I was going to have to sit this week of Project Run and Play out, and I was reeeealllly disappointed, because the theme was Handmedowns (or using old clothes to make something new), and that is what I LOVE to do!  But my piles of clothes saved for upcycling...those did not make the cut for packing across the ocean when we moved to Japan.  And we've only been here four months, so the kids haven't started growing out of the things we brought yet (for the most part).  So I thought that with the limited items available for cutting up, I wasn't going to be able to make anything that either of my kids would actually want to wear.

But I just kept thinking about it!  I did NOT want to miss this week's sewalong! (You can see my Totoro submission from last week's '80s cartoon theme here.)  But I also didn't want to spend time making something that wouldn't get used.  And then...I spotted it.  While helping Little Sister choose her clothes for the next day, I was yet again urging her to choose a dress in her closet that I love, and that she NEVER wants to wear.  It's nothing special, just a sundress I got on clearance at Old Navy, but I have always loved the print and the trim and she has never given it the time of day.  But she does ask me almost every day when choosing clothes for school if she has any skirts with pockets.  And I sadly keep telling her that she doesn't.  BUT!  What if I could take this forlorn, unloved dress and turn it into a SKIRT WITH POCKETS?  I am Super Sewing Mama!  I can DO THAT!

In addition to the dress, I was able to use one of the hubby's dress shirts that doesn't work with his new Tokyo office style.  He had told me I could cut it up earlier, but Little Sister wasn't going to go for a dress made out of navy blue stripes.  However, it was a great accent fabric for the print on the dress, so it became the pockets and waistband!

While I was at it, I thought it would be fun to salvage the sweet bodice detail from the dress.  So I went through my own closet, and pulled out a workout tank with a  really unflattering ruched bodice. Why did I bring that with me?

But as luck would have it, the color coordinated nicely with the print, and there was enough fabric in the lower part of the top (and the bonus sports-bra layer under the ruching) that I was able to make the cute coordinating tee to go with the skirt!

I did have to piece the back of the shirt since I didn't have a big enough panel of the coral knit, and I used one of the straps from the sundress to add a cute detail in the back.  I love that part!

I love these pics of her--not necessarily the best clothing photo shoot, but her dad was just out of frame talking to her and making her laugh, and I love her expressions when she's chatting with Daddy!

The sundress hem was shorter on the sides, and I didn't mess with the hemline at all, so the skirt has that detail as well:

Over the years, I have made so many skirts based on The Milkmaid Skirt tutorial from Crafterhours that I could do it from memory this time!  I made a few changes since I was upcycling, so I'll show you my process here, but if you want to make a skirt like this I really recommend that Crafterhours tutorial.

Here's what I did:

First, I cut the bodice off of the dress, leaving as much length for the skirt as possible.  You could also do this with an old shirt or larger skirt--you don't have to start with a dress!  Then I lined up the side seams and cut a pocket shape out of the front of the skirt on both sides, stopping at the seam.

Ooh, this is a better picture of the hemline trim I wanted to keep intact, too.
Then I used my seam ripper to remove the pocket cut-out the rest of the way.

I laid my pocket fabric underneath and copied the curve I cut from the front of the skirt for my pocket...

Then cut two pieces using that curve for the pocket linings.

Then I cut my two remaining pocket pieces, copying the first pocket shape but leaving out the curve for the opening.  The fabric at the top of these second pocket pieces will show, so keep that in mind if you are using a directional fabric or want to highlight a certain part of your print!

You should have two of each of these shapes (one going in each direction)

Next, pin the right side of the pocket lining with the curve cut out along the curve you cut out of the front of the skirt, on the RIGHT side of the skirt fabric.

Sew along the curve only, and clip the seams.

Then turn the pocket piece to the inside of the skirt and press.

Now, line up your remaining pocket pieces and pin in place along the outer curve of the pocket.  Make sure you've got the right side of the fabric facing DOWN so that the visible part is the right side of the pocket fabric!  Sew along the outer curve of the pocket.  I like to reinforce this with a zig-zag, since I hate getting holes in my pockets!

If you want to know the truth, I usually wait until I GET a hole in my pocket then I FIX it with a reinforced seam.
 Oh, shoot, I didn't get a picture of this step.  But once you've gotten the pockets sewn together, then rip the skirt's existing side seams down far enough to get the side seams of the pockets sandwiched in-between the front and back of the skirt.  Then re-sew those seams from the top of the skirt down, making sure to line them up nicely with the existing side seams.

Ok, back to the pictures.  Next I cut out a waistband.  I used a waistband from a pull-on pant pattern I had laying around, but that Crafterhours tutorial I linked to above will give you some good guidelines on making your waistband.  It will have elastic in it, so it doesn't need to be really exact.   I pressed mine like a piece of double-fold bias tape--in half the long way, then folded the edges in and pressed again.  I think I cut it 3 inches wide and about 25 inches long.

Another step I forgot to photograph--sew a basting stitch across the top of the skirt front inbetween the two pockets, and gather it slightly.  Gather all the way across the back of the skirt.

Then I sewed the waistband into a loop and adjusted the gathers until the skirt was about the same width as the waistband.  I lined up one raw edge of the waistband with the top of the skirt, right sides together, and sewed along the line I pressed into the waistband.

Next I folded my waistband up and over to the inside.  I decided to close it up by making sure I pinned the inside of the waistband just over the stitch line from attaching the outer part of the waistband, then I just topstitched on the outside of the waistband to hold everything together.

Make sure to leave an opening in the back though, so you can insert your elastic!  Once that's in there, close the waistband up!

I just had to show you how she used her pockets today at the park:

Rock collector extraordinaire!  I am glad I reinforced those seams after all!

And for the record, friends--in Project Run and Play, there is no voting for the sew along competitors like me.  There is a panel of judges who select the Sew-along winner.  But there are some spectacular sewing bloggers who were selected to compete each week, and anyone can vote on those!  Check out their submissions here,  and you can see all of the sew-along submissions here!


  1. I've been in that situation too.. where I've bought my granddaughters a garment that I love but it turned out not to be one that they loved too. Great repurpose of a cute fabric.
    Deborah @ Sew Much To Give

  2. Great save! Every child loves having pockets. Glad you were able to participate this week.

  3. Very cute and creative. I like your resourcefulness!

  4. Great job making her something she loves! It drives me crazy when my kids don't like something that I bought or made, haha! I bet your daughter is thrilled to now have a skirt with pockets.

    1. She is! I have to wash it for her tonight so she can wear it again :)

  5. I love everything about this outfit. Perfect pockets and all ;)

    1. Thanks for checking it out, Elizabeth! I have trained her well.


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