dress upcycled from a tablecloth
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#usedtobeatablecloth: The reveal!

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing” (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. 🙂 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. 🙂 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

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Refash., Thrift Store Thursdays

Quick mum jeans refashion

I scored these pair of jeans on a “vintage fair”. It was more the kind where you find used clothes on the floor, most of them looking unwashed, but only for a £1 each. I don’t really wear jeans, so I wouldn’t spend anything over a pound on it anyway, and they were in pretty good condition, so I decided to get them. I prefer the loose fit, and since it was on the bigger side it was a perfect candidate for alteration. Thrift Store Thursdays - Black jeans refashion

Thrift Store Thursdays - Black jeans refashion

Thrift Store Thursdays - Black jeans refashion I’ve actually worn them twice in their original form right after I bought them. Looking at the before pictures now, I don’t really know what I was thinking though… 🙂

Since they had no back pockets and an elasticated back, it was easy to make them fit on my waist by sewing some darts on.

I still kind of feel like there’s a bit of excess on the lower legs, but I wanted to keep them as comfy as possible and I’ve already reduced the excess twice, so knowing how lazy I am, they will stay like this for now.

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Refash., Thrift Store Thursdays

Military jacket refashion

Who knows how it all started, but at some point I became a thrift store junkie. I love the hunt for the next bargain. I love the opportunities the pieces hold. I love the idea of giving something old a new life. To celebrate this new love (and to motivate myself to actually do the alterations these poor old pieces require), I decided to do 1 post about a thrift store find’s alteration every month from now on.

To start the series off, I chose the biggest project as of yet: a military jacket I bought on Brick Lane for £2.

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

I’ve always wanted a military style jacket, but instead of the ones you can buy everywhere, in every season, with the cinched in waists for women, I was looking for the real deal. Since the smaller sized proper ones were more like shirts, when I saw this huge jacket, lined with the same fabric, I decided to go for it and just hope for the best. After doing a little research, I found out that this was a Dutch NATO combat jacket, that usually sells for about £20 on eBay…

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

I started out by disassembling it (and ripping the lining at one point 😦 ). Then I took in the sides and the sleeves, but because I really didn’t feel like removing and resizing the pockets, I ended up with an A-line jacket at first. Unfortunately, instead of using a pattern, I just took in the same amount on the front and the back, and I ended up with the back being very tight.

I wanted to have a removable lining and removable faux fur collar, but I had to sew the lining to the coat, and attach the collar with safety pins, so that I can finish it within 2 days from start, and wear it on the Berlin trip. It looked and felt awful to be honest.  It was too tight in places and way too loose at others, there were threads hanging out everywhere, and I had to hold it together with a belt, as I did not manage to put buttons or a zip on it. But even if it looked like crap, I think I was the one complaining the least about the cold during our little wintry holiday. 🙂

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

When we came back, I kind of felt like shoving it in a box to finish it next year, but I didn’t. And I’m happy I chose to put all this work into it, as it’s a pretty useful thing to have, and I absolutely adore the collar.

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

So on this updated version I made a lining out of contrasting cotton lawn fabrics, with a little piping made of the golden material used for the removable lining’s sleeves. By the way, the removable lining is made of a faux shearling fabric and the golden quilted batting, and the faux fur collar is the most expensive fabric I’ve ever bought, but it is pretty good quality I guess…

There is a zipper on the jacket, hidden by a flap, with fabric covered con it. To attach the lining to the jacket, I used fabric loops on the jacket to match the buttons sewn on the lining. I inserted  metal suspender clasps into the faux fur collar, which can be clipped on the jacket’s collar. Because everything is removable, I should be able to wear it pretty much all year round in London.

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

Whoever sews will know how hard it is to admit one’s mistake and to refashion-a-refashion (or something you’ve made from scratch), but I’m quite happy I went for it. Even though removing the pocket flaps, for example, and resizing them was hard work with very little impact, it meant that I could fix the coat from being A-line to a better fitting straight one, and it ended up being something that I love to wear because I like the way it looks, and not just because it is the warmest thing I own.

 DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

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Refash.

The birthday dress

    You might have guessed by now, I’m one of those crazy people who get irrationally excited about their birthday. It’s not that I like to be celebrated, and I don’t particularly like getting gifts (unless it’s for no reason), but I like to treat my birthday as my special day. The one day of the year when I notice the small things too and tend to remember most of it even years later. It’s also that one day when I get to be as overdressed as I wish without feeling bad about it. 😉 So this year the plan is to get this vintage dress out of the box, make it into a pretty little cocktail dress, go to Frank’s to watch the sun go down, and go home dancing?!

TheSecretCostumier - Birthday dress it is

     I bought this crazy 80’s grandma’s summer dress a few years ago in a charity shop in Budapest. I really loved the print and was planning on making something unexpected from it, but have always been too scared to cut into it. Practically it is still intact, but the other day in the middle of my 18 hour-long procrastination marathon, I picked the dress up and decided to just go (relatively) simple and make something out of it. Right after this, I sat down to sketch how it’s going to look, then one thing led to another and I made the below little illustration in a mere 8 hours.

     I probably could have actually finished the dress in that time, but what the hell, I’ve learned how to colour the dress bit with a pattern instead of a solid colour in Photoshop, so now I am basically unstoppable when it comes to future garment planning. I might as well just give up sewing and draw clothes on my super realistic little body from now on… Anyway, here is the master plan:

TheSecretCostumier - Birthday dress design

   I think I will use the same pattern as for the backless dress from Burdastyle, and I might take the chance to try to use boning to hold the whole thing tight on my bust. I probably have to ditch the buttons on the back altogether and use an invisible zip instead, for similar reasons. I already feel a little less excited now that there’s a plan and all, but one day I’ll surely make it!to be continued

Image of Frank’s found here.

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From scratch

The patchwork journal cover

Lately I’ve discovered a few traits and habits that I inherited from my Dad, other than the habit of not finishing things we start. Like this sewing thing. He is just as obsessed about woodworking right now, watching videos for hours of a man cutting wood with different machines, as I am about dressmaking. He has always been like that, but only now I can see this connection. And then there is the journaling. It turned out that keeping a journal runs in the family, as my late Grandfather used to have them, my Dad has precious little books for phone numbers, calculations and notes to himself, and I started keeping one 5 years ago too.TheSecretCostumier - Journals TheSecretCostumier - Journals TheSecretCostumier - JournalsI bought the first one when I moved to London for the first 7 months, and from then on, buying a fresh, new notebook was the highlight of my Decembers. Honestly, some of them are more than half empty, like the Moleskin London edition, but the rest work as the most helpful self-help books I could ever read. Whenever I feel empty, bored or tired of life in general I just open one up and read through how I saw my life at certain times. It helps putting my current struggles into a different point of view, and reminds me that if nothing else can help, time solves absolutely everything. This is why I’m so worried that I’ve neglected the writing habit this year, even though so many important things happened to me already. In a bid to inspire my journal writing (and try my hand at quilting again), I decided to make a patchwork cover for my 2013 notebook.TheSecretCostumier - Patchwork journal scrap fabrics TheSecretCostumier - Patchwork journal pattern TheSecretCostumier - Patchwork journal piecesI drafted the pattern on an A4 paper, numbered the pieces and wrote the colours on them, cut them out, added seam allowance on the fabric, and started sewing the blocks together. It has pocket on the inside and a little pen holder. It would have turned out neater if I didn’t pick the bloody green stretch velvet fabric, as even though it looks awesome (since it’s velvet!!!!:)), it pulled the other fabrics, and seriously misbehaved… Apart from that, it was done in a few hours from planning to squeezing the journal into it, and it looks like a magician’s little exercise book from Harry Potter, so I am quite pleased.TheSecretCostumier - Patchwork journal

Apart from making something absolutely useless, I’ve started sewing a dress as well. 😉 More on this tomorrow!

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TheSecretCostumier - Reupholstered wingback chair
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Reupholstered wingback chair: Before and after

   A few weeks ago I shared how I found a 1959 wingback chair on the street and what inspired me to have a go at upholstery. The chair is now ready, and in fact, I’m sitting on it writing this post. It is comfy, I’m rather pleased with the outcome and I’ve learned so much making it. Here are the 3 most important lessons I’m taking with me from this project:

  1. Never choose a fabric with a pattern that runs in lines. I had 6 meters of fabric and almost ran out of it, as I had to match the patterns everywhere on the chair. It really was a nightmare, but looking at it now, the hard work paid off.
  2. If you don’t have a high pressure stapler gun I suggest you use a good old hammer and upholstery tacks. I did it this way, because this is how it was originally done and I couldn’t find my stapler. Although at some places it was hard to reach the nails with the hammer, they held the fabric in place much stronger than the staples could have.
  3. Upholstery is probably more time consuming than would imagine, but it isn’t as difficult as it seems to be. You need common sense and tons of patience. I threw away the old cover without tracing it for the new pattern (I didn’t feel like touching it ever again, as it was wet and smelly when I found the chair), and still managed to pin together the new cover on the chair.

    Luckily I did not have to buy new foam for the seat cushion, as we had one lying around at home, the fabric was only £10, I also bought some piping for about £2 and then some rope in a similar width. I did not buy any buttons, but covered two regular ones with the same fabric myself, so while a similar, one-off, handmade chair usually costs anything between £300 to £1500 on eBay, Etsy or Anthropology, costed me no more than £20. Yeey! Take a look at the before and after!TheSecretCostumier - Reupholstered wingback chair before and after TheSecretCostumier - Reupholstered wingback chair

…by the way, that beautiful painting was a parting gift from an old colleague/new friend of mine, Regina, when I moved to London. She used to paint when she was younger, and apparently picked it up again, as one day I showed her a picture on Apartment Therapy of a portrait on the wall in somebody’s living room, and told her that it was the  kind of painting I would love to own, so she painted an exact similar one secretly and gave it to me as a parting gift when I left the company where we worked together. It is still one of the most cherished things I am lucky to own.

Check out how I found this chair and what inspired me in this previous post.

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Refash.

DIY beaded skirt in under an hour

Quick & easy dress refashion

Do you remember this dress I bought a few weeks ago at a thrift store for about £3? Even though it was about 2 sizes larger and I could not picture it on myself at all, I decided to bring it home with me.

It wasn’t only because it was really cheap, but I have tried to sew sequins and beads on garments before and so I knew what a gift it is to have a piece of fabric that is 100% silk and full of hand sewn beads in the fabric pile, just in case. I bought it on the same day as the Zara skirt and I liked how that one looked cool because of its simple design (an elastic band on the waist)- and chic because of the silk scarf print. I thought this could might as well work on this dress if I cut it  in half, so that’s what I did. It was simple as that.

Okay, maybe not just that simple, but I only made one mistake and could correct it after 20 minutes wasted right away, so instead of long instructions, here is the recipe for successfully turning a dress into a skirt in no time!

  1. Measure the length of your new skirt (add at least 5 centimeters on top of the desired length).
  2. Mark it on the dress and cut it (this is the scariest part, I promise!)
  3. Switch your sewing machine to zigzag stitch and neaten the raw edges.
  4. Decide how long you want the frill on top of the skirt to be, then mark this and pin it down, inside out.
  5. Stitch the top seam (mine is 3 cm from the top).
  6. Put the elastic band below the first seam. Hold it there as close as you can, secure the ends with pins and sew below it.
  7. Try on the skirt pulling the elastic to the right fit. Secure this with a pin and take the skirt off carefully.
  8. Stitch the ends of the elastic bands to the skirt and clear the inside of the skirt up.
Click on the photos to enlarge them!

Remember to cut once, measure twice(!), but do not worry too much as it will be hard to spot the length differences since it isn’t supposed to be staying straight on your waist anyway.

The mistake I made was making the casing for the waistband before I inserted it. The casing was just big enough to put it in on the first few centimetres but I could not find a way to pull it through the whole skirt, so after half an hour of intense suffering I gave up on it, acknowledged my mistake, patted myself on the shoulder and well…ripped the second seam out.

Despite this tiny little failure, this skirt is still one of the cheapest/easiest/best looking projects as of yet, so good luck for anyone thinking about giving it a try!

TheSecretCostumier - Me Made May - Day 9

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