Despite having a LOT of clothes and nowhere to wear them right now, I really enjoy time spent on my two favorite hobbies – sewing and thrifting! I am an AVID thrift store hunter, particularly for shoes, sweaters and jeans (essentially the things I can’t or don’t make for myself). My love of thrifting has rubbed off on my 13-year old daughter (but not yet my love of sewing), which is great because so many other activities are on hold right now and it’s something we can still do together.
So last week, we found some time to stop by our favorite thrift store and peruse the racks. I had an idea in my head that I was going to make a holiday dress out of thrifted pieces, using each for one of the dress parts. I picked up five fun tops in greens, reds and blacks for about $15 and headed home to plan my project.
But as it was, I became particularly attached to one piece in particular – a black polka dot cardigan sweater with sparkly faceted metal buttons. I toyed with the idea of just hanging it in my closet and sparing it from the cutting board, but I didn’t love the cut of it since it was a shorter, close fitting piece (two things I tend not to like to wear these days). I spent a day thinking about how I could use it as the centerpiece of a new design, and as I mentally worked through my library of Ellie & Mac patterns, the plan came together. One of the things I love so much about E&M patterns is that once you pick up a few dresses and tops, you begin to build a great base of pattern pieces that you can use not only interchangeably with each other, but as templates to bring refashions into your designs. Here is how I created my new favorite sparkly holiday dress from a $3 cardigan, stash fabric, and two Ellie & Mac patterns!
To start, here is a shot of the original cardigan – how great are those buttons?? You can see the full sweater in the next pic.
As my first step, I used the front bodice piece from the Puff Sleeve dress pattern to estimate the length of the bodice. I decided to use the Puff Sleeve dress because this pattern has a waistband and because the top of my dress was going to be a very different weight and type of fabric than the skirt, I wanted something to smooth out the look. I set the bodice piece on top of my cardigan to determine how much I would need to shorten it.
Next, I chopped the bottom of the cardigan off to prepare it to be the bodice of my new dress!
I then stitched together the cardigan pieces at the bottom center so that they wouldn’t shift when I attached them to the waistband.
Next, I cut out my two waistband pieces using the Puff Sleeve top waistband piece. However, I modified the waistband based on personal preference to save a step. In the original pattern, you are guided to cut out two sets of waistband pieces (so a total of four – front and back main and front and back liner). I wanted to skip the liner so I just doubled the height of the waistband. I did this so I could just fold it in half height-wise and have two layers of fabric for stability but skipping the liner. You can see the original height of the band and then my double height.
I then attached the front and back pieces of the waistband together at the sides wrong sides together using my serger (but you could use a stretch stitch on your sewing machine for this whole process).
Next, I folded the waistband in half height-wise, wrong sides together. I quartered the waistband with clips and then quartered the bottom of the bodice, then clipped the non-folded edge of the waistband to the bottom of the bodice, right sides together. My bodice was only slightly wider (I got lucky there!) so I stretched slightly as a serged the pieces together, then pressed the seam.
I almost stopped here because I really liked the look of the bodice and briefly considered just hanging it in my closet as a new top!
The next step is where the Tres Belle dress comes in to play. The Puff Sleeve dress has a circle skirt and half circle skirt option. I wanted to do a gathered skirt because I didn’t have enough fabric for either of those options. Tres Belle to the rescue! I found this super fun sparkly knit fabric in my stash that I bought years ago but didn’t have the right project to use it – but this surely was it, right? Check out the sparkles!
I cut out the front and back pieces for the skirt using the gathered skirt piece from this pattern, and assembled the skirt per the Tres Belle instructions, simply sewing up the sides. Then I gathered the front and back of the skirt until the width matched the bottom part of the waistband, then tied off my gathers to keep them stable for the next step.
For the final construction step, I basted the bottom of the waistband bodice (this is now the folded edge of the waistband) to the gathered top edge of the skirt, right sides together. Once I was happy with how it looked, I serged over the basting stitches to finalize the join.
Since I was so excited to try on my dress and take pictures for this blog, I skipped the hemming step for now. I also should have adjusted my gathers a bit before I did the last step because I can see that they are slightly uneven, but hopefully the sparkles are so catchy you don’t notice!
And that’s it! This project probably took me about an hour once I got started cutting, and I am so in love with my new (and amazingly comfortable) holiday dress! What do you think??
Have you done any E&M pattern mashes with repurposed pieces? There are definitely more in my future!
Check out my affiliate link to the Tres Belle dress here
Check out my affiliate link to the Puff Sleeve dress here
Sending thoughts of safety, warmth and joy to you all during this holiday season,