KCW Winter 2015: An Unnecessary Polka Dot Dress

Polka Dot Dress Upcycle by fromwholecloth.com

Oh, Kids Clothes Week, are you over yet?

Don’t get me wrong. I love Kids Clothes Week and the way such a large online sewing community comes together to celebrate it and share ideas and give virtual pats on the back for jobs well done.

But. I find that not a lot of other things on my to-do list are accomplished during KCW. The final day of KCW means that reality is about to bite down hard on my butt cheek. Laundry piles await. The house is generally unkempt. Nothing tragic or even all that problematic for sure. More like a dull headache that is nagging in the background and you just wish it would go away.

Further, sometimes the creative frenzy that KCW fosters inspires me to sew up garments that are not even remotely a wardrobe necessity. Like this polka dot dress for my daughter.

In its prior life, it looked like this.

Dress Original

A polka dot dress that is neither purple nor navy blue (blurple?), with a very sheer polyester exterior and a rayon blend stretchy lining.

As I started to lay out my pattern pieces, it became obvious that the original exterior dress hem was not completely straight. Since I firmly believe that an integral part of upcycling clothing is that you incorporate as many of the finished edges and other completed details as you can (heck, I’ll take any opportunity I can get to skip hemming!), I was determined to use that hem — asymmetrical or not!

Polka Dot Upcycle2

So, I shifted my pattern pieces a bit to accentuate the asymmetry, and now — asymmetrical hem rules the day. I think it’s a nice, unexpected counterpart to the otherwise sweet mini polka dots.

And, having now sewn with that sheer polyester fabric — by far the slinkiest, shiftiest fabric I’ve ever sewn — I can tell you I never would have finished the dress if I had to hem it myself. Dang — this stuff had a mind of its own. I just kept reminding myself that this dress was essentially an experiment, with free fabric (thank you, sister!), and there would be no harm in ditching the whole thing in the wastebasket if it became a sewing nightmare. Yep, that was me, with my devil may care attitude, hair blowing in the breeze, whistling a tune while sitting at my sewing machine. As if. There was some cursing involved as I wrangled the polyester into submission.

The dress fits just fine over a shirt, and so I can justify its utility as a winter wardrobe addition. However, I am looking forward to seeing her wear it sleeveless in the summer. The sheer, flowy fabric is definitely a better match for warmer weather.

And I have a KCW confession to make. I haven’t finished off the seams yet; raw edges abound on the inside. So naughty, I know. This is partly because I had light colored thread in my serger and I was too lazy to change to a dark color. The other, perhaps more compelling reason, was that this fabric is so sheer I was afraid I’d burn it with my iron, so I just sewed up the seams and left them — no pressing, no finishing, just moving on.

Polka Dot Dress Upcycle by fromwholecloth.com


Of course, I can’t leave it this way. And there is a reason why ironing is an incredibly important part of sewing. I cringe looking at this photograph below of the side seam in all its unpressed madness. Shudder.

Polka Dot Dress Upcycle by fromwholecloth.com

Oh, forgive me my sloppy, unpressed side seam!

Let me just get on my soapbox for a moment to discuss the need for good ironing (since I’m obviously not leading by example in these photos, ha!). Perhaps my appreciation for a nicely pressed garment was imprinted over several years of spending Sunday nights ironing my school uniform shirts for the week ahead. I recall my mother even teaching me the correct order for ironing a shirt. (Oh, yes, there’s a proper order — google it!) But seriously, skipping pressing when constructing garments, will likely contribute to your creations looking amateur and cheap. You can even think of pressing as a remedy of sorts for less than perfect sewing, since pressing can help smooth out minor imperfections and will give everything a nice, neat appearance. Okay, stepping down from that soapbox now.

Polka Dot Dress Upcycle by fromwholecloth.com

So behold the dangers of Kids Clothes Week. You make dresses your daughter doesn’t need. You get angry at finicky fabric. You leave your seams raw. And you shun your iron. What is the world coming to, people?!

Oh, and you make your daughter endure endless photo shoots.

Please, please, I beg you. Stop taking my picture, Mama!

Please, please, I beg you. Stop taking my picture, Mama!

So long, KCW Winter 2015! It’s been swell.

KCW Winter 2015: Another Tee to Dress Upcycle

Coral Circo Tee to Dress Upcycle by fromwholecloth.com


Tee to Dress Upcycle 2 by fromwholecloth.com

Circo clearance t-shirt to dress upcycle #2. I just had to make another. And I think I like this one more.

Daisy was in an incredibly good mood as we had our photo shoot for this post. She was hamming it up and we had a lot of fun. The starry background may have contributed to her cheerfulness. It kind of set the mood for feeling you were somewhere much more special than the living room. (Backdrop is from Caravan Shoppe. I’m not sure if it’s still available, but they always have a great selection of printables, so it’s worth checking out.)

A few months ago I wouldn’t have batted an eye over her exceptionally good mood. It would have seemed like the norm rather than anything extraordinary. But these days, tantrums are becoming a regular part of her day. We’ve become accustomed to seeing more of this lately:

Circo Tee to Dress Upcycle #2 by fromwholecloth.com

Oh, I swear, it should be called the “terrible threes“, rather than the “terrible twos.”

I made this dress a little differently from the prior one. The skirt portion is half the width I used before, so it’s not as full. The biggest difference is that I attached the skirt to the outside of the t-shirt, rather than tucking it under.

Tee to Dress Upcycle by fromwholecloth.com

I simply folded over the gathered skirt top by about 1 1/2 inches, and then topstitched the skirt onto the t-shirt bottom.  The raw edges are hidden away from sight, and you have a cute stand-up mid-line to the dress.

Tee to Dress Upcycle 2 by fromwholecloth.com


Tee to Dress Upcycle 2 by fromwholecloth.com

Such an easy way to dress up a regular old tee. It doesn’t require much fabric, and somebody else did all the trickier parts for you. Can you sew a straight line? You can make this. A perfect beginning sewing hack!

kid's clothes week

KCW Winter 2015: Easy Tee to Dress Upcycle

Tee to Dress by fromwholecloth.com

Kids Clothes Week rages on and I’m back at it with a very simple project this time. This one transforms a t-shirt from the Target clearance rack into a fun dress by pairing it with a bright Amy Butler fabric.

I love stripes. For real. I just can’t resist striped attire for children (or myself). And stripes paired with a big, bold floral print become both sporty and feminine.

This project started as a long-sleeved t-shirt that I scored for $3.50 from Target (had to buy two colors at that price!). I sized up and purchased a size 4T because it seems like the Circo brand always shrinks a fair amount after the first washing.

Circo Shirts

I hacked off a good 10+ inches from the bottom of the t-shirt, and about 5 inches from the sleeve length. I then made a skirt using two width-of-fabric rectangles of a bold Amy Butler print. I used this same fabric when I made Daisy some summery skirts when she was about 9 months old. It’s kind of a crazy print but the colors are so great.

Circo Tee Upcycle by fromwholecloth.com

I gathered the extra wide skirt portion to make it the same size as the bottom of the shortened t-shirt, and then attached it to the bottom of the shirt using a zig-zag stitch to allow for as much stretch as possible (since the knit t-shirt fabric is stretchy, but the woven skirt fabric is not). Then I hemmed the skirt.

Sleeve Detail on Circo Tee to Dress for KCW by fromwholecloth.com

The size 4T sleeves were way too long for my daughter. I could have just shortened and hemmed them, but I decided to add a ruffle to the shortened sleeve for a little girly flair. I used the hacked off bottom of the t-shirt to make a ruffled cuff. No wasted fabric on this project!

Upcycled Tee to Dress by fromwholecloth.com


Upcycled Tee to Dress by fromwholecloth.com

This bright dress seems like the perfect remedy for all the snow and cold weather we’ve been experiencing lately.

Upcycled Circo Tee to Dress by fromwholecloth.com

As a side note, there was another Kids Clothes Week project that I was working on last night. I had scored a pair of purple velveteen jeans from Goodwill about a year ago with hopes of transforming them into a soft pair of pants for Daisy. But, it just didn’t happen. I was most of the way done with the sewing when I realized I really didn’t like how they looked. The envisioned pants were better in my head than they were in person. I could tell they would not be a hit with Daisy, either.  Pants are a hard sell for her to begin with – she’s a leggings girl. And so, I just walked away from the project.

There’s a certain luxury associated with working with upcycled materials. Because the cost of entry is generally pretty low, you can feel free to take risks you might not want to take with your “good” fabric, or, as in my case, to abandon a project that doesn’t quite satisfy your creative intentions.

The pants cost me about 75 cents at Goodwill. Much, much less than the cost of the same amount of a new, quality fabric. The time spent sewing was good practice – I view it as an investment in strengthening my sewing skills. Rather than feeling guilty about “wasting” good fabric on a pair of pants that would never be worn, I could walk away from the nearly finished but unremarkable pants without a second thought.

I have at least one more project to share this week. Until next time…

KCW Winter 2015: Inversion Conversion

Inverted Pleat Skirt KCW Spring 2015 by from whole cloth at fromwholecloth.com

So, I haven’t blogged in months, and now I’m jumping back into it just in time for Kids Clothes Week Winter 2015. So nice of me to make an appearance, huh? There actually has been a lot of sewing going on, just not much blogging. We’ll have time for catching up soon enough. But for now, let’s talk Kids Clothes Week, shall we?

kid's clothes week

This season’s theme is upcycling – giving a piece of clothing (typically a previously worn item of clothing) a whole new life by converting it into something new. Luckily my mom and my sister know I’m always eager for hand-me-downs to play around with for sewing projects. That, combined with items I’ve curated from Goodwill and the clearance racks at department stores, provided me with plenty of inspiration for this challenge.

First up…. a vintage J. Crew long skirt that has been converted into a girl’s skirt with a deep inverted pleat.

Here’s the skirt in all of it’s original glory.

Skirt Original

This was my mom’s skirt. Confession — I had the same skirt in a hunter green background, rather than blue. I got a lot of wear out of that skirt. And, I swear, my mom and I did not wear them at the same time! Timeframe: late ’80s to early ’90s.


The skirt is a lightweight cotton twill. Years of wear and washing have made it so soft. Interestingly, the original size eight waistband measured just shy of 27 inches. Nothing like the vanity sizing we have today! I suppose, too, this skirt was from an era when skirts and pants were worn on our actual waists, not the low waist. I chose to save myself any unnecessary anguish that would be associated with attempting to fit into the skirt today!

I made the converted skirt a girl’s size 6. My daughter, currently three years old, likely won’t fit it for a couple years, but as I contemplated my intended remake of the skirt it just seemed like this style would wear better on a slightly older girl — and I had plenty of fabric to accommodate a larger size, so I went with it. One current drawback is that I can’t show you photos of the skirt being modeled live. Sorry, you’ll have to suffer through boring hanger shots.

Overall the conversion was pretty straightforward. I started by chopping off a whole bunch of length from the original skirt. I cut the skirt to an 18 inch length, which allowed for a nice thick hem on what should be a knee length skirt, and still left me with a fair amount of leftover fabric for a potential other project from this print.

Skirt Cut

Since the skirt had a separate waistband, I unpicked about 6 inches of the front center skirt where the waistband attached to the skirt to make it easier to create the deep inverted pleat. I feared that unpicking the waisband would be difficult and tedious, but the stitches gave way very easily. Like buttah, I tell you. A benefit of the skirt’s age, no doubt.

Waistband Unpicked

I then cut away a portion of the front center of the skirt to allow a space for the contrast fabric. There was enough fabric to make the pleat using the original fabric, but I thought the contrast fabric would liven things up a bit and highlight the pleat.

Skirt Front Cut

And then, I forgot to take pictures of the rest of the process. Oops. It got late. I was tired. And stopping sewing to photograph is just not a natural occurrence for me.

So let me just quickly tell you what I did. I’ll use my words, like a big girl. (Can you tell this a frequent topic of late in our household? Terrible threes, anyone?)

I took the waistband in a few inches by simply cutting out a portion of the original waistband and sewing the remaining waistband back together. Then I sewed a contrast piece of fabric (actually two layers of handkerchief-weight ivory linen basted together as one piece) to the existing skirt fabric lengthwise. I then folded and basted the inverted pleat, and then fit the new, pleated skirt front back into the unpicked portion of the waistband and sewed it shut. Finally, I hemmed the skirt with a wide 1.5 inch hem.

Ta da…

Inverted Pleat Skirt, Upcycled Long Skirt by fromwholecloth.com

Being able to easily separate the original waistband from the skirt was key to the ease of this project. It allowed me to use a contrast fabric, make the pleat and reduce the waist size without having to totally hack up the skirt. And I love the clean look of the separate waistband for this style, as opposed to a bulky elasticized waist.

I was also able to retain the original back invisible zipper and button closure. Such nice features that I most likely would have avoided for a child’s skirt project (mean mommy!). This upcycling stuff is pretty nice – I like having someone else do the heavy lifting for me. A girl could get used to this!

Pleat Skirt Back

Ooh, and pockets, too! Thank you, J. Crew. Your contributions are appreciated!

Inverted pleat skirt by fromwholecloth.com




Okay, well, … so I guess I’ll just throw this in the closet now and wait a couple years…. Kind of an anticlimactic end to this project.

KCW Inverted Pleat Skirt by fromwholecloth.com

Have a great start to your week, and stay tuned for more upcycled creations this week. And, check out the kids clothes week blog for a peek at what others are sewing.