Thursday, March 14, 2013

Upcycled Mini-Muumuu

It wasn't my intention to make a mini-muumuu out of my old shirt, but my girl can definitely rock it.

Channeling her inner Mrs. Roper

That's the thing with upcycling sometimes--you have to go where the garment takes you, which isn't always where you thought you would end up.

I was inspired by CINO's knock-off of a Tea Collection dress that I loved--we actually had one back when the girl was about a year old.

"Oh my gosh," I just thought to myself, "I think I have some pictures of her wearing the dress I'm talking about."  And lo and behold.

Just hold still while I poke you in the eye, Big Brother.
Goodness, was he sweet with her.  Still is.

And now I totally forgot what I'm doing and I am staring at these babies and wondering where the two lumbering giants I have in my house came from.

And HAHAHA I just looked again and that's not even the same dress.  But wait...

THERE it is.  I was blinded by the stripes before, but this floral one is actually the same CUT as the dress CINO knocked off.  And now that I've gone on this tangent, I've got to show you the rest of this photo, where The Boy is holding her hand...


Those photos came from a free department store photo session, an experience which we tried one more time after that before I decided I'd just better learn to take some decent photos myself.

ANYWAY, back to the dress... I printed off her pattern and enlarged the printable 2T bodice pieces by about 1/2 inch (so, making the bodice front and back each 1 inch bigger, since it is cut on the fold) since Little Sister is almost three now (LUMBERING GIANT.  Did I mention that?).  But here's how mine is different:

1.  I left the body of the shirt intact to create the skirt, meaning mine was about 20 inches wide instead of 18.  It had in-seam pockets on the side that I didn't want to mess with, and Iris will never complain about extra fullness in a dress.  Plus it was only 17 inches long instead of 18, the maximum I could cut off while leaving something to work with for the bodice.  Oh, but it was already hemmed, so the 17" was probably just about right!

2.  Obviously, the bodice front is way different, because I was trying to incorporate the v-neck from the original top.  This dramatically changes the overall look of the garment.

3.  I cut the sleeves so that I could reuse the elastic at the bottom.  Therefore my cap sleeves are more like short sleeves--and more about my lazy way to attach them later.

The end result looks totally and completely different than both the original Tea Collection dress and the spot-on knockoff.  But a great dress nonetheless!

I kind of feel like it's a waste of time to do a tutorial for an upcycle, unless it begins as a very common item like a t-shirt or a button-down dress shirt.  Unless you have a slightly-longer-than-average top with  a v-neck, short sleeves that have elastic cuffs, pockets, and a hood, I'm not going to be able to help you recreate this dress very well.  I can show you the pieces I started with:

I had this top to begin with:

These are the pieces that I cut it into:

skirt (from the bottom 17" of the top, with little curves cut out of the top corners for the armpits)
2 sleeves (using the existing elastic cuff for the bottom)
bodice front (using the existing v-neckline)
bodice back (cut out of the hood, because I didn't have enough of the shirt part left)
strip for binding the neckline (a scrap left over from the shirt)

what remained after cutting out the bodice back

I kept the gathers in the skirt right in the center of the front and back.  There are no gathers on the sides of the dress.

 There are a few things I did here that might be helpful in other upcycles.

1.  The binding at the back of the neckline:  I kept the binding on the v-neck in the front, but my original shirt had a hood, so there was no binding.  This is also an issue if you want to use the original hem on a shirt but you need a smaller neckline.  I made a strip of fabric twice as wide as the binding on the front of the shirt plus extra for seam allowance, and folded it in half (wrong sides together).  Then I laid it down on the back bodice panel (right sides together) with the raw edges together, and sewed the binding to the shirt.  Then I flipped it so it was standing up the way I wanted it to and topstitched so that the seam allowance was sewn down away from the neckline.

2.  Reattaching sleeves that already have elastic in them:  I hope I can explain this in a way that makes sense.  When I got to the bottom of the sleeve, instead of making a seam, I angled the two ends of the elastic in towards the armpit.  This meant that I didn't have an extra-bulky seam where I sewed the two ends of the elastic together, and I also didn't make it into a cap sleeve where I then had to deal with binding the rest of the arm opening.  The sleeve fabric goes all the way around the armhole.  It's kind of like attaching a cap sleeve but starting all the way down at the armpit seam and ending up with the other end of the cap sleeve touching it on the other side.  Hopefully this photo will help:

Clear as mud, right?

It's a little wide, but I think it gives it a lovely breezy by-the-pool type of attitude that I could frankly use some more of in this rainy part of the world.  This dress is making me mentally ready for summer.


Back view


  1. its adorable and looks so comfy! Love the fun bright fabric!

    1. Thanks for the inspiration and for checking mine out! I love your blog--your tutorials are always fantastic.


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