I’m still competing in Project Run & Play–thank you for voting me through again! Let’s get right to this week’s challenge: REPURPOSING. For me, the true meaning of repurposing is for the original materials to have already been used, then made into something new. So I won’t be hacking away at any new, clearance rack, XXL t-shirt, since the t-shirt never served it’s primary purpose.
Keeping that in mind, I decided to only repurpose items that we already had–which was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Before we moved to the San Francisco bay area, we went through a huge purge, either donating or giving away clothing, baby gear and household goods. It felt really good and since then, we have been trying to maintain a simple lifestyle, with less consumer goods and more handmade goods. Except now I don’t have a lot of items to repurpose!
Then I found my mom’s vintage dress in my closet. I love this dress–so many of my childhood memories belong with this dress. Years ago, my mom was about to throw the dress out, but I salvaged it, even wearing it a couple of times. But the seams were weak and I tucked it away, unable to part with it.
I phoned my mom and asked if I could repurpose her dress into a dress for Froo. She was totally fine with it and had my brother email me some photos of her wearing the dress! I wanted to honour the dress (my mom, really!) and make it special. Here’s a “before” photo of Froo wearing the dress:
The fabric label had been removed, but my guess at the fibre composition is polyester or poly-blend. It’s slightly sheer, with a mesh-like, stretchy quality. It behaves like knit fabric, which doesn’t fray (yay!), but it does snag (boo!). The bottom skirt is almost a full circle, with the seam running down the wearer’s left side.
I was fully intending for this dress to have long sleeves, but once I saw all of the pieces, it just seemed so wrong. I changed course and decided on a sleeveless dress.
To add detail to the plain bodice, I “embroidered” (using the term loosely, just needle and thread) red pearl cotton in the centre of the flowers. The front bodice is backed with black Pellon shape-flex interfacing to provide more stability for the embroidery.
This repurposed dress is all about the back! I placed the original cross-over v-neck on the back of the dress, to create an open v-back bodice. For the skirt, I shifted the seam to align at the centre back. This drastically changed the flow of the print–it creates symmetry and draws attention to the busy, floral print. I wanted all of the details to come alive at the back, paying homage to the past.
I purchased stretchy black swimsuit lining to back the bodice and I used stay tape on the neckline for extra structure. Afterwards, I understitched the lining, to prevent it from rolling.
Once the skirt was shortened and hemmed using stay tape (loving this stuff!), I used a gathering stitch, clear elastic and a serger to attach the skirt to the bodice, following this tutorial, which worked really great at keeping a close fit, while maintaining stretch.
The belt is my dad’s old necktie, folded into a bow tie, using a variation of this YouTube tutorial. I hand stitched snap buttons as closures. The last time we were in Vancouver, I took about 20 of my dad’s old neckties. He has oodles. My uncle is a doctor in Korea and apparently, it’s customary for patients to give their doctor gifts. My aunt gives them to my dad, who has trouble saying “no” to free things, no matter how hideous they are. I brought them home, intending to make tiny bow ties for Fringle & Stu. This one was just the right shade of rich red:
I felt that the dress needed a bright cowl scarf, so I made one using my old Banana Republic scarf that was sooooo itchy. I shortened it and backed it with some leftover quilted sherpa, from my week 1 challenge. I serged the end of the scarf twice, to ensure it wouldn’t unravel.
But the buttons! My friend Deborah gifted me some awesome buttons (thank you!!!) and these leather buttons were in the mix. She bought them at Our Social Fabric, a non-profit organization that collects donated fabric and sewing notions to sell, keeping them out of landfills. How perfectly fitting is it for me to use them in this challenge?? My sewing machine can’t handle button holes through thick fabric, so I stitched the buttons on and placed a magnetic snap on the inside.
Froo was not happy about the fake nerd-glasses that I found in the $1 bin at Target, but this is my absolute favourite photo of her from our photo shoot:
I thought the outfit needed a cardigan or jacket, but I couldn’t find anything suitable to use. Until I saw a pair of the hubs’ old jeans–they are HUGE! (I mean, he’s 6’3″ tall and prefers a relaxed-fit.) I used my drafted blazer pattern from last week and made a couple of tiny modification: a straight front edge and a one-piece sleeve, instead of two pieces. I was able to cut all of the pieces on the grain, matching most of the faded bits at the sleeves and shoulders. I love the almost ombré effect the fading creates.
Then I cut a leg off my worn-out jeans to create enough trim for a ruffled edge–they were the first pair I bought after Froo was born. I bought my Fidelity jeans at a warehouse sample sale for $26. I don’t know why I remember this. The colour is a pretty good match!
These buttons! The other ones in the mix from Deborah–I just love them! The colour is a blend of brown-black, with a hint of mauve and looks great with the red stitching.
Again, the denim was too thick for button holes, so I placed snap buttons on the inside facing of the jacket. They are quite easy for Froo to snap together!
The inside of the jacket is finished with bias tape. I had purchased the red bias tape for the bamboo suit, but never used it. The bottom hem, sleeves and back facing are hand stitched in place.
I repurposed the tag from the hubs’ jeans for a more polished look. Besides, we could use some luck this week!
For this week’s Project Run & Play challenge, I feel a deep sense of accomplishment for repurposing what I had, without buying any additional fabric, besides the lining and notions (interfacing and snaps). I also feel that I conquered my seam-freaking-ripper. It really had me beat a couple of days. I wore a head-lamp strapped to my forehead, just so I wouldn’t go cross-eyed, trying to pick out some unruly seams.
With all the money I SAVED, I feel like I practically MADE money (insert photo of the hubs rolling his eyeballs here), so I bought Froo a pair of ballet flats from H&M–they are insanely cute and coordinate really well with the dress. Then we went to the San Mateo Main Library for our photo shoot. I thought it would be the perfect location, since the public library is the ultimate example of recycling–books to borrow for free and share with the entire community!
I must admit, this challenge really brought out an emotional side in me. While making the dress, I could almost smell my mom. Not in a weird, creepy way, but in that way that you would leave a piece of clothing with your baby for comfort while sleep-training. Or a puppy while crate-training. We’ve been through both. My mom’s dress symbolizes her training for me to be an amazing mom to Froo (and Boo!), that even my scent alone can provide my kids with comfort and security. Ok, I am totally calling my mom now!
Thanks for visiting! I would love for you to vote for me at Project Run & Play–this is my last chance at making the finale next week! (I always feel awkward asking for votes, but I appreciate every single vote that I get. Seriously. Because each vote counts–the competition has been incredible!)