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Repurposed Embroidery Tests New Ideas

Carrie and I have both been playing with new ideas. Spring just calls out for these experiments as we plan easy clothing for the hot weather to come. A few weeks ago you got to see Carrie’s fun new peplum top based on the Carpe Diem Tunic.

Playing with fabric and proportion on the dress form.

Testing New Ideas

I have been working on an idea for some new shirt details. After sketching and then drafting off new pattern pieces for the planned details, it seemed like a good idea to take a step back. I had been preparing to cut into some very special fabric for this new shirt when Carrie, by her actions, reminded me of the value of testing out ideas before cutting into the best fabrics. Her thorough exploration of the mock-up, wearable mock-up, and then the final rayon top inspired me to try the new details on something less luscious first.

Instead of a shirt, the details were imposed on a Carpe Diem top with a V-Neck that has similar lines to the planned shirt (which will hopefully make it to the sewing machine soon). That might sound illogical, but it worked for me as a wearable mock up using my trusted Carpe Diem pattern.

Find Usable Fabric—New or Vintage

The fabric chosen was a lovely Asian cotton print gifted to Fit for Art some years back. There was only one yard, but such lovely colors, so I set about to find a coordinating stash fabric to make the design work.  As is often the case, there in the studio was the freshly washed dress with embroidered border details that I found when cleaning out my mother’s wardrobe. The fabric was interesting and light weight, plus its textural, floral nature was a good match with the busy cotton print.

Cutting out the cotton top

I cut the basic Carpe Diem top from the printed cotton; the length was dictated by the size of the fabric. Then I played with the vintage dress border print until I found a balanced design and a length that I liked to complement my summer pants. 

Carefully Cut the Repurposed Sections

First I measured the embroidered border to establish it was long enough to encircle my waist/high hip area. I did the same in planning to use the existing sleeve as a sleeve extension for the sample top.

Cutting the collar

The collar, one of the details that needed to be tested, was cut out of the dress’s skirt, above the embroidered border. The collar was underlined with Silk Organza to maintain the shape while keeping it light and summery. 

Cutting the pleat insert.

The insert for the pleated back detail was a rectangle, calculated using the prepared pattern pieces. It was cut out of the front bodice of the dress. It was then stitched into the center back seam of this new Carpe Diem and tacked closed at the top and bottom of the pleat before the final construction.

Try It On

Pleat insert adds lots of comfort and another use of the repurposed fabric

Once the top was mostly complete, I tried it on and ended up taking a tuck along the seam where the two fabrics were joined, shortening the top and creating a flange between the fabrics. It created a very polished presentation in the body so I did it on the sleeves as well. Adding some texture, like this pleat, allows the two disparate fabrics to blend more organically.

Both of these new details came out quite well on this top. That means, when there is a little extra time, I will put them on the planned shirt.

Sentimental Repurposing

Summer of 1983 – attending a wedding, my mom is in the embroidered dress.

This little project has a personal story too. I made this voile dress for my mother when I was in college.  I thought it was lovely fabric at the time, but not my style. Repurposing it now that my mother is gone was a labor of love. The pin that sits at the point of the collar was also a treasure found in her vast collection of jewelry. The dress border was used in its entirety by making a little pleat in the back to align with the pleated insert in the printed section of the top. It took a bit of fancy placement to serge finish the seams in the border and sleeves. They were totally raw edged and since I plan to wash and wear this little wardrobe addition often, those finishes will ensure a longer life. 

Ready to Try It Yourself?

At the ASG conference in late June, I am teaching  a session entitled Re-Vamp Your Wardrobe. We will be considering lots of ways to repurpose and redesign cherished fabric or garments into new wardrobe basics. Plan to join me for a terrific discussion and trunk show! Registration for the conference is open until June 15th. Bring along a treasure you want to repurpose to enhance the discussion.

Be sure to keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram this week to see more photos of the process.

Happy Sewing, RAE

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