The Secret Costumier - The red dress
From scratch

The red dress

On Monday I decided to check out the Notting Hill Carnival for the third time since I’ve been a Londoner. For the first time I actually had some fun.ūüôā I wore a dress that I made at the very beginning of summer, but have had no chance to wear it until now.

The Secret Costumier - The red dress4

It’s pretty much a replica of a dress by Reformation that I spotted a few months ago. I didn’t have a pattern, so I just had to work it out while sewing it, but I think it does the job.

Image source: Reformation Carson dress

There is only one seam at the back, the top bit is lined with the same fabric, and the edges are bound with a bias binding, also made of the red knit. Luckily you can’t really see that the lining is slightly smaller, so the fabric is kind of gathering around the armholes. It was supposed to be a very simple sew, but binding knits is¬†not my specialty, to put it mildly…

The Secret Costumier - The red dress1

The dress turned out to be a really comfortable wear, even cycling was fine in it. The only reason why it won’t be my go to summer dress is the combination of being skin-tight AND¬†backless, but if you’ve seen photos of the Carnival, you can imagine that it was just the right choice for the occasion.ūüėČ

The Secret Costumier - The red dress2


dress upcycled from a tablecloth

#usedtobeatablecloth: The reveal!

‚ÄúBlessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing‚ÄĚ (Camille Pissarro)

And it’s over. The summer and the #usedtobeatablecloth challenge too. Hopefully some of you have found inspiration here in the past few weeks, and there are tablecloths out there turned into something wearable and cherished.

Two sewing friends definitely did, and turned their charity shop finds into some beautiful pieces of clothing.

Marijana, from Sew2Pro, found a very similar tablecloth to what I made my Little White Dress from. She decided to dye it to indigo and made a spaghetti strap summer dress. I really love the placement of the lace details and the interesting neckline, and as far as I know there is some leftover fabric, so watch that space!

Kaci, from Textile and Stitch, bought this crochet tablecloth for a mere $1 and turned it into something Anthropologie would sell for about 200 times more.ūüôā I think it’s super difficult to find anything crocheted that doesn’t look too cute or granny like, but with the simple design and it being monochrome, she managed to pick something that goes very well with a contemporary outfit. It might just be my laziness, but I always love a nice use of the border for the hems, and the ones on this jacket look absolutely perfect.

And I’m done with my dress too, finally…

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

We went to my favourite park to have a picnic and take some photos (thank you Robbie!), and I think I got a bit more comfortable than I was supposed to in this kind of dress, so I had to pull the dress up a few times… I am now thinking of inserting boning into the sides and maybe even into the front seam lines, but it’s not high on my list of priorities at the moment.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

I already went into detail about how this dress came together, so I will not bore you with that anymore.ūüôā While I was making it, I felt that excitement that I haven’t felt in a long time during¬†sewing.

You know, that feeling when you can see something you are working on taking shape, and you haven’t eaten for 5 hours, because you just don’t want to waste time on that instead of getting to the point where you can try¬†it on for the first time. And you try it on. And you realise that even though you¬†will probably only wear it a handful of times, whenever you look at it you will still be¬†happy that you have created¬†something you find beautiful.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

#usedtobeatablecloth: The construction

After about two weeks of an intense search for inspiration, I finally came up with a plan that I was happy enough with to start work on my third item that #usedtobeatablecloth.

I already knew that the tablecloth itself will be turned into a circle skirt, and I had an idea about the silhouette¬†too, so I was just looking for a bodice with some nice seam lines. I went with the same design as the one on the¬†swimsuit below, but looking at the final result now, I am pretty sure that subconsciously I was going for a Dior look after watching the Dior and I documentary a few days before finalizing the plan…

Image sources clockwise from left: 1, 2, 3, 4

I decided to draft my own pattern, because I have recently experimented with a design using my brand new bodice block (drafted to my size), and I was really happy with the results.

First I measured where I would like the top of the bodice to finish, and where the dart should finish, by wearing the toille for the original block. Then I took these measurements and transferred them onto my copied bodice pattern.

After this, I just marked where I would like the seam lines to be, and decided how wide the opening on the back should be for a lace up closure. Once I had all these lines, I copied the new pattern pieces to plain paper, one by one, and closed/opened the darts where it was necessary. After adding the seam allowances, I was ready to make a toille.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

I was trying to buy some calico¬†in my local fabric shop, but it¬†was way too expensive, so I bought some polycotton instead. After making up the toille from it, laziness triumphed and I decided it will also serve as the lining.¬†I actually didn’t even think about lining it at first, not because I didn’t want to, but simply because I totally forgot about it.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

The size of the circle that was cut out (to turn the tablecloth into a circle skirt) was based on my waist measurement plus seam allowance, and I deducted the gap I needed to leave for the lace up back opening.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

The bodice’s pattern pieces were cut out from¬†3 napkins, out of the 8 that came with the tablecloth, and were arranged more sensibly than on the photo, of course.ūüôā Two napkins¬†probably would have been enough though, was¬†I not an idiot who used a pen to mark the dart points, and ironed the interfacing onto the right side of the fabric…

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

I was really unsure about what kind of interfacing to use. Out of the two on hand, one was soft and drapey, but quite thick, as I bought it to use on a winter coat for a little added warmth. The other one was a piece I bought to use on a pair of structured trousers. I decided to go for the latter one, as I thought that as much as I would like to keep the qualities of the fabric, the bodice is very fitted and does actually require some structure.

The piece of fabric I used for the lining of the skirt turned out to be too small to cover more than my bum, so I decided I should try to add some tulle (yay to no hemming!) to make it long enough, and just see what happens… The-accidental-making-of-a-50s-cocktail dress, that’s what happens!ūüėÄ

As soon as I tried it on, I knew I didn’t want to turn it back into a simple summer dress anymore. All I wanted was a friend or relative to get married, or be knighted (like that’s gonna happen) immediately so that I can wear it with my incredibly uncomfortable silver heels, sipping cocktails in a beautiful garden. You get the idea…

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

The last step, that took approximately 7 hours, was making rouleau loops for the lace up back, sewing them on and sewing the back of the skirt shut. I have just read Marijana’s post on how she wrestled¬†to make them for her version of the tablecloth dress, and I must¬†say I totally understand her struggle.

I managed to turn mine¬†inside out, and for the second try I even succeeded¬†to line them up (close-enough to) perfectly. As for the “lace”…well, that I mucked up totally. It took me about 45 minutes to turn it inside out, just to find out that I sewed the wrong sides together and now the seam allowances where the bits were joined together are on the right side. Oh well… Once I figure out what I’m gonna do with it, I will show you how it all turned out!

In the meantime you¬†can already check out Marijana’s beautiful indigo dyed¬†#usedtobeatablecloth dress. She used a similar tablecloth to the one I made my first dress out of, and¬†she managed to transform it stunningly!

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The material & the pattern

#usedtobeatablecloth: The material & the pattern

When I thought about putting together the #usedtobeatablecloth sewing challenge, I didn’t actually¬†think there would be anyone joining me. Luckily, and to my biggest delight, there are some very inspiring people out there who thought it would be a good idea to make something out of a tablecloth. By now, some of these ladies even have¬†their pattern pieces cut out. As for me, I have just decided what direction to take when chopping mine up….

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The material & the pattern

I got this circular tablecloth¬†for ¬£6.60 (including postage), and it came with 8 matching napkins¬†as well! I was a bit surprised by the texture of the fabric, as I assumed it would be similar to the white cotton one I used to make the Little White Dress.¬†In reality, it’s a very¬†soft fabric, fairly densely woven, using probably somewhat synthetic, pretty thick yarn.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The material & the pattern

It has white embroidery, some drawn thread-work decorations and a scalloped hem. The napkins are mostly plain, with only one little flower embroidery on them.

TheSecretCostumier - Usedtobeatablecloth Before4

The plan is to use the tablecloth as a circle skirt, by simply cutting out a hole in the middle to the size of my waist (plus seam allowance, of course!). After this, I would use the remaining fabric and some of the napkins to make the bodice.

Burdastyle pattern & dress, Selfportrait dress, Asos white dress

Right now, I’m thinking of going with a basic shape, either with some sort of cups attached to the middle bit (like on the pink & white dress), or I might use my trusty Burdastyle pattern again (first two images)!

Since the front would be fairly simple, on the back I am going to attempt to make a laced up opening to make it a little more exciting, as well as more office appropriate than my usual open back dresses.

I should be able to finalize these plans during the¬†week and start sewing it this weekend…Fun times!ūüôā

TheSecretCostumier - The peasant blouse9

The off the shoulder top

Once I figured that I will have a large amount¬†of fabric leftover from the Little White Dress (that used to be a tableclothūüėČ ), I decided to whip up an off the shoulder/peasant blouse for our recent holiday. And by whipping it up, I mean it literally took me about 1 hour, cutting included!

TheSecretCostumier - The peasant blouse8

The funny thing is that I’ve been drooling over these tops for a few years now, ever since I saw an old photo of Brigitte Bardot wearing one. I then obviously did what every sewing enthusiast with access to Pinterest would do: pinned all the images of¬†girls wearing off the shoulder tops onto one of my sewing inspo boards.

Once I even made a black version, but the fabric was the wrong choice and it looked like a bin bag with sleeves, so that got ¬†turned into one of my favourite dresses (the one I’m wearing on Day 31 ).

TheSecretCostumier - The peasant blouse7

This time around there was no research beforehand, I just wanted to make a top quickly that would go with all the trousers I was planning on wearing on the trip, and I am really pleased with how it turned out.

So pleased in fact, that I’m thinking about¬†putting together a tutorial! And that’s because this must have been the quickest I have ever made a garment (I didn’t even¬†use a pattern), and I just think we all need a little off the shoulder action in our life.ūüėÄ

TheSecretCostumier - The peasant blouse6

From scratch

The safari shirt

A few months ago I felt a burning need¬†to sew a shirt. I have tried my hands at making one before, and decided not to bother with it ever again.ūüôā

But then I guess struggling with sewing something difficult¬†might be like giving birth. Once you see how well it turned out, you forget how difficult the labor was and you decide to have another one…

TheSecretCostumier - The Military Shirt2

When we booked our tickets to Tanzania and the safari looked like something that might actually happen, I started researching what to wear to one. I mean, we probably all have the same images of people in sand-coloured trousers with practical pockets, women wearing a not so practical white shirt, and the usual clichés.

As the time of the holiday was approaching I decided not to make each and every outfit I was planning to wear, but to only sew stuff I could also wear in areas less populated by wild animals, so the idea of a khaki shirt was born.

TheSecretCostumier - The Military Shirt5

I bought the cotton fabric in Budapest, and for quite some time I wasn’t sure if I picked the colour I was actually looking for. The pattern is a mix of two patterns from Burdastyle with a further modified collar.

I really liked the pleated pockets on this blouse pattern, but I didn’t like the hidden buttons and I wouldn’t have been able to do¬†it with my¬†material anyway. Which is why I simply copied the front with the button placements from this basic shirt pattern.

On my first attempt I finished the whole collar and turned the button facing under, sewed it in place, just to find out that I have turned it under so many times that the two front panels no longer met. I was ready to give up, but I quite enjoyed following a pattern (for once) and getting otherwise nice results so much by that point, that I decided to just keep my head down, rip the seams out of the whole collar and all the way down where the buttons are, and do it again.

TheSecretCostumier - The Military Shirt3

TheSecretCostumier - The Military Shirt4

And it was totally worth it. I am really happy with the outcome. I love the french seams, the big pockets and how light it is. I could hardly¬†believe it, but it actually wasn’t that hot during the safari at all, so it proved to be the perfect choice.


The Secret Costumier - #Usedtobeatablecloth sewing challenge

It used to be a tablecloth…

I was so amazed by the many comments that post about a tablecloth turned into the Little White Dress received, that I decided I will take Marijana’s (from Sew2Pro) advice and set up a little challenge. The aim, quite simply, is to encourage everyone out there with some old linen in the bottom of their drawer, to turn it into the ultimate summer piece.

The prize to be won is that feeling you get when someone asks where you bought that awesome dress/cute top/lovely skirt, and you get to say that you’ve made it with your own two hands…and that it #usedtobeatablecloth.

If you are interested (and I really hope you are!), here is a quick breakdown of the challenge:

The objective:

Turn an old piece of cloth (curtain/tablecloth/napkin/bed linen/etc.) into a garment. To me, nothing says summer more than a heavily embroidered, lacy, romantic summer dress/top/skirt. I think upcycling is the most rewarding way to create a garment. In this case you get to work with some beautiful fabrics, and you are actually doing good by giving a new life to something long forgotten.


  • You will need an old tablecloth/bed linen/curtain/cloth napkins/etc.¬†You could either use something you find at home, or you could buy an antique/vintage one from a charity shop, or from online (eBay is fantastic for this).
  • You can also add trimmings, pompoms, ribbons, or any other materials you have at hand.

What to look for:

  • Your search words should be something like:¬†embroidery, lace detail, drawn threadwork, Madeira, Irish lace, linen, etc.
  • When using vintage materials it is very likely to get some¬†stains or tears on the fabric. Do check for these, but don’t worry too much, with careful designing and cutting, you can get away with most of them.
  • You should also consider the shape and size of what you are buying. For example, a circle tablecloth might work beautifully with certain designs, but it could be very challenging with others.

And here comes the exciting part: what should you make out of your tablecloth you ask?

I made a dress and an off the shoulder top (see above)¬†from mine, with some fabric still left over, but the possibilities are endless. The bigger linen you can get your hands on, the more options you’ll have.

Here are a few inspirational images of clothes probably not made of curtains or tablecloths, but they could have totally beenūüôā

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,  7, 8,  9, 10,  11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22,  23, 24,

Where do I sign up, you ask? In the comments please! I’d love to see what everyone is up to (not just tablecloth refashioning wise, btw), and if you let me know once you’re done, I would love to share your creations here. If you could ¬†just put down your name and your blog’s url/your email address, and say¬†if you’d like to be added to the Pinterest board¬†-so that you can pin there too-, that would be awesome! For now you will find some more inspirational images, but I’m hoping it will fill up with your photos.

You can also use the #usedtobeatablecloth (or curtain/bed linen/whatever it used to be)¬†hashtag on Instagram or Twitter if that’s more your thing.

Since “the ultimate inspiration is the deadline”, here is one:

Saturday 27th August 2016

If you finish your piece earlier, you’ll have more time to wear it and you’ll be able to take some great holiday photos in it. If you finish it just in time, you’ll still have the Indian summer to take it for a test run.

I am making another piece and I’ll share my progress here every week, so if you’d like to follow along, in the next 5 weeks I will post about how I:

  • select the material;
  • choose the design with the fabric¬†in mind;
  • choose/draft the most appropriate pattern;
  • cut and sew the garment.

If you have any questions, need help with anything at all, I am more than happy to help. Happy sewing!ūüôā