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Shrink & Sew

First of all, I need to put it out there--I am not a seamstress or a sewer. I have great respect for those of you who know how to magically transform bits of fabric into stylish, glam clothing. My typical sewing project results in bag lady, circa 1920. I bought my first ever sewing machine last month. I had to watch a video (multiple times) to figure out how to thread an automatic bobbin threader. Until that point, I wasn't even aware what a "bobbin" was. I also got the tracing wheel confused with the seam ripper and was vigorously "ripping" (in actuality, "tracing") until the husband kindly pointed out that my fabric was beginning to resemble swiss cheese. So if you're a pro, you'll likely think my attempts are nothing to rave over, but if you're a novice you might realize that, yes, even you can sew (or shrink up some baggy clothes as I'll show you below).

My main goal in purchasing a sewing machine was to learn how to refashion drab clothing into something more stylish. To begin, I went to my local Goodwill where they were having a "$1 day". I found a red dress and a pink shirt, neither of which I loved. The way I see it, if you're working with non-loved clothing you can destroy them without too much heartache. I also had a pink dress at home that was twice my size that I knew needed a good shrinking. So with three potential outfits I knew my new sewing machine and I would have some grand adventures.

The Ruffled Red Dress
This dress was long, shapeless, shoulder padded mess with brass buttons traveling from top to bottom. It was something I assumed would never look decent, but I decided to try some different things and see where the dress took me.

1) Cut off a good 10 inches of the length and hemmed up the bottom.

2) Removed the ugly buttons.

3) Hung the dress up and let it sit for a few days. I'm realizing I view sewing like art projects, you allow the canvas (clothing) to inspire you and guide you to an end product. I had to rein myself in from cutting up my excess fabric because I knew I'd need it.

4) Sewed in the sides to give the dress shape. This process is quite easy all it requires is you wearing the dress/shirt while it's inside out and drawing lines with a marker/chalk where you'd like the dress/shirt to fit. I used a disapperaing ink marker which worked like a charm. After your use the marker you sew on the lines you drew, flip the dress/shirt back normally and make sure it fits. (If that made no sense to you watch this video on youtube)

5) I decided I wanted some sort of a ruffle effect on the dress with ruffle strips so I cut up my excess fabric into 2 inch strips. I then sewed elastic along the back of each while holding the elastic firmly so when I released it would bunch up. I also decided to do a ruffle/bunching for the sleeve, so I flipped the dress inside out and sewed elastic where the sleeve is (while holding tightly). I'd suggest trying the elastic out on a non-important piece of fabric to get the feel for how tightly you want to hold the elastic.

6) I let the dress sit some more. I played with various ways of arranging the strips and finally decided on the one you see now.

7) Sew it all together and be proud of your first project you sewed unsupervised.

Pink Shirt

This shirt was a little baggy and too restrictive with the collar. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it, but I wanted to experiment with collar removal so here we go.

1) Cut off the collar in the front and back.

2) Fold under fabric and sew a hem along your collar.

3) I decided to try the elastic again (red dress step five) and made an elastic ruffled collar for the shirt. I only had enough fabric from the original collar for a ruffle in the front (as the elastic bunches). I made the elastic pieces, made sure the hems were nice and sewed it on!

4) I took in the shirt slightly (as explained in step 4 of red dress) to give it more shape.

Pink Dress
I'll admit it, I've worn this dress in the pre-shrinked stage. It's completely shapeless so I'd wear it with a belt, but I'd get that big fabric bunch in the back that makes it far too obvious that the dress is too big. I knew it was time to shrink it up so here's what I did...

1) Took the dress in (see step four of red dress).

2) Chopped off the sleeves and hemmed them.

3) Cut off an inch of length and hemmed.

Again, I'm not a great sewer, I just tried a few shrinking techniques and sewing attempts to learn how to work my new machine. Hope you liked and good luck with your shrink sewing!


Jenny said...

this is great--the elastic ruffle thing is super pretty! thanks 4 posting the diy!

kraftygirl said...


shrink said...

Thank you both! I'm glad you like the ruffle/elastic Jenny--it's really easy to do (which has made me go a little ruffle crazy...every sewing project needs ruffles, right?) I'm glad you like the red dress kraftygirl--it was a ton of fun to make, especially having several strips of ruffle and deciding what kind of pattern would look good. I hope both of you try some ruffle work--it's seriously addicting!

two_girls said...

clever girl! I'm much the same way, I have to look at a piece to get some ideas, I just cannot follow a pattern, so recycling is all for me! Thanks for sharing!

kdb said...

as a novice sewer, I'm very inspired. thanks for the reassurance that I can do it and the great ideas.

Danielle Dallas said...

What great ideas! This post made me want to run right to my local goodwill store and see what bargains they have for me to try a makeover on. Maybe I will do that after I finish my box of sewing to-dos that I have already started. :-)

Anonymous said...

I love this! I just bought a dress with intent to make major alterations the day before I read this!

RE: only having enough fabric to do a front collar on the shirt- most collars are composed of two pieces of fabric. Get your seam-ripper and separate them- you'll have enough to do the whole thing and you can finish the edge with a simple hem or just leave it raw!

I am loving this blog girls, keep up the good work!

shrink said...

Thank you all for your comments!

-Two_girls, I'm glad you're the same with sewing, I just couldn't figure out what to do and so I let it sit. Knowing that I'm not alone in that makes me a feel a tad less odd in my crafting habits.

- kdb-You can do it and I'm sure you'll be great at it! My sewing machine has 59 different stitches, right now I only know how to use 3, but someday I'll have tried each one successfully.

-Danielle Dallas-I'm so glad you liked the ideas. There are so many different things at goodwill stores and even chain stores with sales that are just begging you to refashion them. I'm also glad to hear you have a sewing to-dos box (lately if I try on a shirt or dress that doesn't fit right, it's thrown into that box...I hope to actually get to them as well).

-Anonymous-Good luck with your dress altering! It's always fun to see what you can do with a dress, I've decided it's my favorite type of project (given I've only had these three...I may be deciding too fast). Thanks for the information about the two sided collar...I was thinking about that and realized I did separate the two sides and could not figure out where my excess fabric went. I ended up looking through my scraps box and found four scrap pieces that may be able to finish the back. I think I just cut the collar a little bit oddly making it more difficult to piece together a back collar. Thank you though for the information, reminder of my scraps, and helping me see more potential in my pink blouse!

Thanks to all of you readers out there for the support and advice! I know I'm just learning this sewing stuff so all of our comments and page views have helped me feel more confident in my attempts!

Anonymous said...

I have been sewing for many years...Let me say gorgeous!!!! Great Tut(;

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I to recently took up sewing and I don't know thing one about it. You have giving me hope and inspiration to try this on a few things I have in my closet. Thanks

shrink said...

Thank you again for all of the comments--I cannot say how supported I feel in my learning how to sew!

Anonymous-Thank you! Having someone who knows how to sew saying it looks gorgeous makes me want to continue sewing (even when I am seam ripping out my errors and starting over!)

Wendy-I'm so glad you've taken up sewing and that I could give you hope for the amazing wardrobe transformations I'm sure you'll make. Good luck with your new projects!

Anonymous said...

I love ruffles but never thought about using elastic to make them. Thanks. Cute clothes now.

Sisteroos said...

Glad these ideas worked for you, Anonymous. Keep us updated on your sewing successes! :)

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