Do you ever have one of those moments when you discover a hole in an article of clothing, start angrily muttering under your breath about how you can’t believe this item you just bought is already falling apart, but then almost have a heart attack when you start counting in your mind and realize that you’ve owned this item for 5+ years? Happens to me all the time. Where does the time go? What to do with these pieces is always a bit of a conundrum for me. I’m a huge fan of second-hand shops (for both donating and purchasing), but I feel bad donating clothes that aren’t in bad enough shape to be recycled (for those shops that participate in those programs), but also aren’t in great enough shape for someone to really want to wear them. Often, I just stash them in my sewing room and wait for brilliance to strike. Which is what happened with my “new” dress I’m posting about today.
I had a dress I bought from DownEast several years ago that I loved. It was such an amazing dress that three other women in our church congregation also owned it and we each unofficially adopted a week of the month that was our “turn” to wear it. Over the years it somehow got stretched out though.
I also had a basic pink tee from DownEast that had an unraveling hem. When both items had landed in my sewing room pile, I knew it was time for a DownEast Remix. I cut a few strips off the bottom of the shirt and used this tutorial to make the “braided” neckline. (I did two rows of the “braid.”) Then I cut the original top off the dress, did a basting stitch around the raw edge and cinched it till it was the same size as the bottom of the t-shirt, and sewed them together using regular thread on top and elastic thread in my bobbin. (I based a lot of the dress assembly off of this t-shirt dress tutorial.) I added a belt and voila, as good as new.
And just for fun, look how cute this little girl looks with her tiny ponytail.
I love the look of pre-ruffled fabric and how easy it is to use. I got a good deal on some red ruffle fabric, but since red isn’t exactly my color I saved it for a special birthday present for my sister. As with most of the things I do, I read several tutorials and after not finding any one in particular that fit my needs, I kind of did my own thing. My approach wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but it’s so simple and has a flattering result that I thought I’d share. You’ll want to make seven or eight for yourself I’m sure.
1/2-3/4 yard pre-ruffled fabric (Your yardage will depend on your height.)
1/2-3/4 yard matching/coordinating knit (Since this is a lining the look of the fabric isn’t quite as important. I used an old t-shirt to line the skirt I made for myself.)
Wide Elastic (2″+ preferably)
Fold a pencil skirt you own in half and trace. Add 1/4″-1/2″ to the edges depending on how big of a seam allowance you will be using. I used 1/4.” Cut two pieces on the fold of both the ruffle fabric and the knit. (To achieve this with only 1/2-3/4 yd I laid my fabric out, found the center, and brought each edge to the center to create two folds.) Make sure you line the top of the pattern up against the top of a ruffle so the ruffles on the front and back of the skirt will line up.
Match the right sides of the ruffle fabric up and the right sides of the knit fabric up.
I’m usually not too pin crazy, but with the ruffle fabric I put a pin in each ruffle to make sure everything stayed in place. You don’t want to catch any of the ruffles up because then you have to unpick stitches which is one of my least favorite things in the world.
Once you’ve sewed the sides of the ruffle fabric and the knit lining, put the knit inside the ruffle skirt and match up the side seams. You can sew the two layers together at this point if you want, but I was lazy and didn’t. The easiest way to do the waistband is to take the elastic, wrap it around your waist, pull it just a little bit so the elastic can properly do its job, and make a cut that leaves a little extra for a seam allowance. Sew the two ends together and then pin over the top of the skirt. Sew around the top. Give the skirt a final once over to make sure none of the ruffles were caught weird in the seams and trim any fabric that may pop out from underneath your bottom ruffle. You can hem the knit lining if you want, but you can also skip that since the knit won’t fray and hopefully no one will be examining the lining of your skirt.
The other day we were at the mall walking around and enjoying their A/C. I stepped into a Motherhood Maternity Outlet to check out their nursing wares. I’d heard really good things about their pull-down tanks and figured I’d check and see if they had any for a good price. (Honestly, I was mostly looking for things to prolong my stay in the overly air conditioned building.) The selection in my size was slim, unimpressive, and not any sort of deal. I was looking at some of the fun prints available in larger sizes and saw an XL tank at a severely discounted price. I thought to myself, “Man, it’s not fair that something made out of so much more fabric costs so much less.” So much more fabric. So much less. A light bulb went off in my brain. If I bought a tank top in my size I’d have to wear something with it for the sake of modesty, which would mean one more layer which is something I’m really not looking for at the moment. If I bought a tank top that was too big, It would cost less and I could use the extra fabric to make sleeves and avoid adding an additional sweaty layer. Brilliant.
The first thing I did was take up the neckline a little bit. I turned the tank inside out, pinned the shoulder straps together and took about 1/4″ seam. I then tried it on and decided the cut was satisfactory.
Next I turned the tank inside out and took a little off the side, making sure not to cut too much into the armpit since I still wanted to be able to get the thing on.
Then I folded the shirt in half so I could take the same amount off the other side. After that I pinned the sides together and sewed them from armpit to hem.
To make the sleeves I measured my arm and cut a rectangle that was the Width of My Arm X the Height of My Desired Sleeve. I rounded the edges off, folded the sleeve in half, matched it up right sides together to the shoulder seam on the shirt, pinned it and stitched it together. (Here’s a pretty good explanation of how to do a cap sleeve, although I didn’t ruffle mine and attached it a little different.) Voila, nursing tee!
I wore it to the park today and it was perfect for the 90 degree temperature. When it came time to feed Ellen I whipped out one of my swaddle blankets and tugged down my top. One of the other moms told me she’d never seen anyone look so elegant while breastfeeding. A true compliment indeed.
Since we are obviously trendsetters we thought we’d document these outfits we just threw together so we could inspire all of you. Seriously though, I remember when my college newspaper started featuring random students’ outfits. I thought it was a weird thing to do. Now this type of thing is ALL OVER the internet. These days I mostly find these types of posts amusing (Holy crap, people really pay that much for belts!?!?), but every once in awhile they make me feel ever so slightly covetous. One of the sewing bloggers I follow regularly documents her outfits. I generally don’t pay these posts much attention, but right after Ellen was born she had a post where she was wearing a pair of burnt orange skinny cords that the irrational part of my brain told me I had to have. My grandma had just given me some money intended for a “new mom” outfit, so I did some investigation and found that the pants cost a mere $150 at Anthropolgie. I guess that’s not too much for some people, but just thinking about paying that much for a pair of pants hurts every cheap bone in my body. (Don’t worry grandma, I bought something much more sensible.) So the dream of the burnt orange skinny cords got laid to rest. Then one day I was sitting at the kitchen table looking at an old pair of cords hanging on the line and inspiration struck. With a little help from a bootcut to skinny jean tutorial I had myself a new pair of pants by the end of naptime.
(Do you like how I dressed up for the after picture, but not the before? That’s a little trick I learned from weight loss ads.)
Before you get started, check the seams on your pants. The inside of my pants had a decorative overlay, so taking in the plain, outside seam was a better option. I actually still stuck with the inside seam though and just took in the entire inner leg seam, crotch and all, to make the pants a little more low rise. And here’s a little tip, if you turn the pants inside out when you pin them, you save yourself a step.
Oh, and don’t worry. We won’t be doing what we wore posts on a regular basis. That was just for kicks.
After sewing up a frenzy, taking a million photos, and anguishing over pricing, my shop is officially open for business. Right now I am testing the market/waters, so if there’s anything that you don’t see that you want to see or something you’d be willing to pay more for, let me know. Also, if there are typos anywhere in the shop, let me know ASAP. I hate typos. (How embarrassing.) Any other feedback is welcomed as well. If you like what you see, spread the word. Tweet, pin, mail a letter to a friend, use that Facebook thingy, whatever gets your social mojo going.
I’ve always wanted a little girl. I was not necessarily disappointed when we found out Cooper was a boy, but I was disappointed that shopping for and dressing a boy was fairly unexciting. When we first brought Ellen home from the hospital I think I made her a new headband every day for a week. It drove Noel crazy. “You really like dressing her up don’t you?” He asked. Guilty as charged; I do enjoy it.
Months before Ellen was born I purchased white satin to make her a special little dress to be blessed in. I wanted to get started on it right away, but knew it would be silly since we didn’t know when she’d be born or when we’d be blessing her and consequently what size she would be. Somehow I managed to hold off making a dress until the week before and even then I ended up making two. The first was a bit snug and I was really afraid that if she grew at all it wouldn’t fit her. (I’m really having a hard time adjusting to having a normal sized baby. Remember these booties and this fleece outfit? She never wore either because she was bigger than I expected her to be.)
After making the first dress using a tutorial from Make It and Love It, I came across a picture of a blessing dress with a full skirt. The gal that made the dress didn’t leak any of her secrets on how she made the skirt so adorably flouncy, but with some Google sleuthing I figured out that she probably used a technique called “pick ups.” I stuck with the Make It and Love It tutorial for the dress bodice and used a tutorial from Burda Style (complete with weird duct tape mannequin) to do the pick ups for the skirt. The eyelet underskirt was cut from of a salvaged bedskirt, so I can’t take any credit for it’s delicate intricacy. The second dress was a tiny bit roomy, but she wore it well.
I made the satin flowers for the headband using this tutorial, also from Make It and Love It.
*If anyone is in need of a white dress for an 8 lb or less baby let me know.
** One of these pictures was taken by me, the rest by my mom. Bet you can’t guess which one was mine 🙂
So, I was at Target the other day scouring the clearance maternity racks. I had a $3 coupon for Liz Lange Maternity in hand (You can print one from their website if you’re in the business for maternity apparel. I think it doesn’t expire until the end of February.) and was bound and determined to find something that a) Fit b) Looked good and c) was cheap. I found a top in a size larger than I usually wear (I’m really hoping outgrowing my maternity clothes means I’m nearing the end) and tried it on over my clothes right at the rack. (Don’t judge, the dressing room scene isn’t the most friendly scene for a mother and a toddler, but let’s not go there. Not today anyway.) I looked at myself in one of the mirrors they had in the area and was HORRIFIED. I looked like a whale. I took the shirt off and hung it back on the hanger and checked my reflection to make sure my hair didn’t look any more disheveled than when I’d arrived at the store. To my dismay, I discovered that I also looked huge in the outfit I’d put on that morning. I really hadn’t thought I’d looked that bad when I’d checked myself in the mirror before loading Cooper into the car. I was about to start feeling super depressed when I noticed that there was a huge difference in the reflection of a pair of pants in the mirror compared to what they looked like hanging on the rack. I grabbed the shirt I’d previously tried on and headed out of the Maternity and Plus Size area and into the Junior’s Section. I located a mirror, retried the shirt and breathed a sigh of relief. Sure, I looked like a pregnant gal with a really big belly, but I didn’t look ginormous. I’m not sure what kind of cruel joke Target is trying to play, but I’m not sure how they expect to move any of their Plus Size or Maternity clothes with a fat mirror in the department.
A post like the one below isn’t so much for me to brag about my amazing sewing skills (which are highly overestimated by the way) as it is to brag about the fact that I, Audrey Merket, actually wore something cute and unstained on the same day that I went to the effort to do my hair.
When we were briefly living in DC we attended church there. My ears perked up one Sunday when one of the women told us that when she was a young mother she decided that there was one thing that she decided she needed to do in order to be a successful wife and mother. I wrestled my child, waiting for an inspirational boost from her words. “Every day before I did anything for my husband or my children I made sure that I looked good – and I did! Some days people would come to the door and ask me where I was going and I would say, ‘nowhere,’ but it showed how seriously I took my job.” Seriously? My spirits were not buoyed, my child did not stop wiggling, and I probably left the meeting with traces of drool somewhere on my person. Admittedly the worst of it was that a small part of me actually felt guilty for not greeting each day as if I were to spend the afternoon with the first lady. I agree that looking good does bring confidence, but sometimes it seems like a lot of effort to go to when my clothes are likely to be smeared with food and I’m not going to see anyone except maybe our elderly neighbors that pretend they’re not watching me hang laundry on the line (and probably wonder if I own anything other than yoga pants).
Regardless of silly goals, even days that I dress up (ie change into actual clothes) I spend a significant amount of time in pants with elastic waistbands. It really doesn’t help that lately my actual clothes have elastic waistbands. That’s the honest truth, just thought you should know.
Once I’ve “come out” about being pregnant I’m all about wearing clothes that show off the bump. When I was pregnant with Cooper I was teaching so I had to look professional most days. Now that I’m not working though, the temptation to just hang out in sweatpants all day long is sometimes much too strong. So, to avoid slipping into too much of a “frump slump,” I set a silly and vain goal that I was going to focus extra attention on my appearance. Well, that of course led to a selfish desire for more clothes which I tried to placate a bit by making some clothes instead of buying them. I’ve been sewing up a storm the last month and am ready to call it quits (although I’m sure it will pick up again in a week and a half when we find out what we’re having). In summation of my vanity plight, here is a small fashion show of my creations.
The Coral Top – Made out of a comfy allure knit complete with the heavenly 4-way stretch my belly needs. The side ruching was aided by this simple tutorial. The pants are a clearance steal from Motherhood maternity. I doubt they’ll last my entire pregnancy since it’s slightly difficult to wrestle myself into them already . . . but they’ll make for great postpartum spring wear, right?
Stripey Top – Made of jersey burnout knit. Pants are another Motherhood Maternity clearance closeout.
Wrap-Around Top – I made this top from a pattern that was available for free when I was pregnant with Cooper, now it costs $15. If you want to make one for yourself, let me know because I might be able to hook you up with a pattern . . . I made a top like this when I was pregnant with Cooper and really liked it, but right now I have mixed feelings about the new one. I kind of feel like a mummy and wonder if I should have used plain fabric instead of a print. Maybe I’ll like it better as I grow.
Maxi Skirt – I used this tutorial from Elle Apparel to make this skirt. The tutorial is also where I learned about elastic thread which is a miracle for sewing waistbands and such – especially for a pregnant person. Also another great item for post-pregnancy.
Shirt Dress – I took an old (and stretchy) shirt and after altering the sleeves I paired it with some new fabric to make this dress. The tutorial I used for this one was also from Elle Apparel.
50’s Housewife Dress – Maybe it’s the print or the fact that I wear this dress with pearls, but it reminds me of a 50’s housewife. I didn’t really use a tutorial for this one, just made up my own pattern. There were a few fiascoes before the final product, but by some miracle I managed to salvage it and I think it turned out okay.
All of the fabric was purchased from fabric.com (from clearance of course) except for the last which I got on sale at Hancock Fabrics.
One of the joys of a second pregnancy is that you show sooner, which is super for me because my body isn’t very good at hiding secrets in the first place. Right now I’m only 12 weeks and some change and to people that know me at all I’m visibly pregnant. (Especially by the end of the day. I swear I just slowly inflate all day long.)
Needless to say I’ve been picking my wardrobe carefully the past couple of weeks. In addition to wearing lots of baby doll tops and empire waist dresses, I made a few tops to help me feel more cute and less chubby. I assume they’ll also come in handy post baby when everything is reversing.
This top was based off of this tutorial from Tea Rose Home. The tutorial uses two shirts, but I didn’t have much luck coming by those cheap, so I made the shirt out of some knit I picked up at the fabric store for a few bucks. The shirt is kind of fun and all the crazy ruffles make it kind of hard to discern whether there’s a baby in there.
This top was made from the final leftovers of the comforter I made. In brief, I cut out strips of fabric, did a basting stitch along the edge with my machine (making sure to only back stitch one end), pulled the thread to cinch the fabric up a little bit and then sewed each strip onto the tank top. Two pieces of advice: 1. It looks better with a belt 2. try to either use the same fabric for the tank top or at least match the colors. I wore this once on a windy day and suddenly the outfit didn’t look quite as good . . .
Well that’s enough awkward self-photos for one day.