Wedding Dress Costume Make-Over

As costume designer for the upcoming home-school play, Little Women, I get to play with all kinds of fabric and clothing. As most of you Louisa May Alcott fans already know, one of the sisters, Meg, gets married during the story. This means creating a wedding dress for this character.

One of the moms of the show found this gorgeous wedding dress at Goodwill for $20. It’s vintage, but has a lot of stains and wear: the perfect candidate for re-purposing! Before you cut up clothing, check out my list of questions in one of my previous posts, Re-purposing Children’s Clothing.

Although this dress is old (and still sporting the Goodwill price tag), it’s still about 100 years off. Little Women is set in the 1860’s, which is during the Civil War time period. I was hoping for a dress more like this:

Notice the open sleeves, lower neckline and full skirt. In order to be more accurate, this dress needed some re-styling. I grabbed my scissors and started cutting. I worked with the neckline first. I wanted an open neck, but I also had a high zipper to deal with, so only a little trim was possible (still have to trim off that Goodwill tag!).

Next I trimmed the sleeves. Because the sleeves were already poofy, with some pressing, the sleeves flared out nicely to look similar to the 1860’s style.

As you can tell, the skirt itself was completely changed. I cut the original skirt off at hip length making the top a bodice. Thankfully this dress came with a very full and long train. I converted the train into a full skirt which will accommodate lots of poofy under-skirts!

I sewed the skirt onto a ribbon lined with interfacing (to keep it stiff and straight). The skirt slips over the bodice and snaps in the back for the quick change it requires during the scene.

Voila! With just a few minor changes, this outdated wedding dress is now ready for the stage. Can’t wait to see it on the actress with the crinoline and headpiece.  Oh, yeah! The headpiece. I guess I just named my next project. Off to the sewing machine!

Artfully sewing,

Angela Jean

Working with linen and Tina Givens


Today I am starting my first Tina Givens pattern, “Plinka Pants”. It’s a free download of very cute pants. So far I’ve printed the pattern, taped it together and cut out the template. Very easy so far.

This is the first time I’m working with linen fabric. I am a little concerned because it is a little more pricey and I know it can fray easily. That is why I’m glad I found this tutorial, Washing, Drying and Cutting Linen by Ilsa Starling.  In it she explains all you need to know to deal with linen for the first time. Now I’m off to wash and dry my new fabric!

Artfully sewing,

Angela Jean

Using Up Treasured Fabric

I have a problem. I love to collect fabric. Actually, not just fabric. I love lace and linens, anything with hand embroidery, silks, satins, velvets and gaudy vintage bed sheets. I love the look, feel and even the smell of fabric. Yes, I do have a problem. And what is the solution to this problem?

I have to start using the fabric I currently have in my stash.

Every quilter/seamstress has a section of special fabric that she has fallen in love with. Sometimes it’s so special, we don’t even want to cut it! It’s time, ladies. Get out your imagination and your scissors and get to work!

Fabric up-cycle by Angela Jean of Artfully Sew www.artfullysew.wordpress.comMy first treasure was this silky oriental print I got from my step-mom. I love the cranes and fans! I used it for the top part of the shirt and fussy cut it so that the crane would be fully visible. The rust color was brought out with some orange ticking hidden in my Halloween fabrics and accented with a hem of cream/blue ticking.

Fabric up-cycle by Angela Jean of Artfully Sew I kept getting frustrated with the sleeves. Originally I added long sleeves from another shirt I used for an apron, but they didn’t work and made it look clunky and tacky. Then I got some lace from a friend (click here to see more treasures) and decided it would look nice as sleeves. It softened up the look and gave the top a light and feminine look as well.

Fabric up-cycle by Angela Jean of Artfully Sew

Fabric up-cycle by Angela Jean of Artfully Sew

This top looks great with a pair of jeans.

Fabric up-cycle by Angela Jean of Artfully Sew

Simba the cat had to hop into the picture because he is much more photogenic than I am!

What fabric do you have fears of cutting because you have a love affair with it? Share your fabric photo below and tell what you think you will make from it or ask for input if you’re stuck on ideas.

Now off to the fabric closet to find my next project!

Artfully sewing,


90’s jumper gets a much needed up-cycle!

I know amazing people. Recently my friend, Robin gave me a bin of treasures. For FREE. Bits of lace, embroidered pillowcases and vintage linens  – all crying out to be made into new things! It was like Christmas for this scrap junkie. On the top of the pile was this not-quite-finished jumper.

YJ 05wmRobin had made this a long time ago using a canary yellow tablecloth, an embroidered table runner and some crocheted lace doilies. In it’s time, it was very stylish and trendy. In order to live in my closet, it needed a makeover. The hem was unfinished and very long. Plus, although I do like yellow, it was a little bold for me. Robin had given me permission to do what I wanted with it, so I grabbed the scissors, extra lace and some dye and got creative!

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The first thing I did was cut off the length to about mid-thigh. I wanted this to more of a long shirt than a dress, that would work over leggings. To tie in the lace from the bodice, I dug through the treasure bin and found some lace from a pillow case to edge the hem.

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After finishing the hemline, I had the straps to deal with. Although bibs usually have buttons, all the buttons I auditioned just wouldn’t make the cut. I wanted this to look classy, not so cutesy, so I ditched the buttons and sewed the straps down to the front. The sides also got snaps that didn’t show instead of visible buttons.

YJ 07wmWhen I tried on the new outfit (over my pajamas, no less), I liked the length and loved the lace, but I wanted to calm down all the colors. Nothing a little tan dye wouldn’t fix! I added a half bottle of tan Rit dye to my washer, following the directions on the bottle. Here’s the results:

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The tan dye did the trick. It calmed down the yellow to a nice mustard color. It also antiqued the embroidery and helped tie the ensemble together, making a new, stylish top.

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If you like my chicken wire dress form, check out how I made it here: DIY Dress Form from Chicken Wire.

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This outfit is now complete with a denim blue shirt, brown leggings and boots accented with a long, lacy scarf.

Now back to the treasure bin to find something else to create!

       Artfully sewing,


Creative (and cheap) packaging tips

Packaging Fiber Art

Art Quilt by Angela Jean:

“Faith” Art Quilt by Artfully Sew

One of the challenges of selling fiber art is packing for shipping. When a customer purchases one of my pieces, I want to be sure of a couple of things:

1. The art quilt is protected during shipping.

2. Because of the embroidery and embellishments my quilts often have, I also want the art quilt to be secure, unable to be bent or folded.

3. That the art quilt is packaged creatively so that it is beautiful and fun to open when received.

This verse from Hebrews 11:1 has been such a help to me!

This verse from Hebrews 11:1 has been such a help to me!

Since each quilt is individually made, I very seldom have two art quilts the same size but usually do not exceed 20” – 24″. Postage rates change frequently, so I always use the postage calculator at You can put in the exact size of your package/envelope and know what to charge for shipping (I totally underestimated the shipping on this piece!)."Faith" Art Quilt by Angela Jean -

The shipping charges increase if your package is over 12″ long. I think it’s worth the extra money so the art quilt isn’t folded. Folding these quilts makes creases that can become almost permanent because of the embellishing I do to the fabric.


Simple supplies work great for packaging.

Simple supplies work great for packaging art quilts.

Most of the supplies I use are things found around the house:

  1. Plastic wrap
  2. Stiff cardboard (usually from a box of some sort)
  3. Tape
  4. Bubble wrap
  5. paper bag (grocery bags work great)
  6. Dress pins (I save pins from new shirts etc)

Cut the cardboard to about 1/4 inch wider than the quilt. Tack the quilt to the cardboard with dress pins, one in each corner and one or two on each side. This prevents shifting. Note: try to keep the point of the pin in the cardboard without poking out the backside. You don’t want to prick your customer!

If you’d like, you can attach the receipt, a note, a bonus gift and etc to the backside of the cardboard. Sometimes I even cover the cardboard with wrapping paper to give it a better look. It’s up to you!

I love writing a little note to my customers, instructions for care and even a bonus gift on the backside.

I love writing a little note to my customers, instructions for care and even a bonus gift on the backside.

Once you have the front and back set, it’s time for the plastic wrap. I use plastic wrap for a couple reasons. One, it protects my quilt from dampness and dirt and secondly, helps keep the quilt securely in place. I also think it makes the quilt look nice and well cared for.

I wrap the wrap just like wrapping a present, securing it with tape on the backside. You might want to get a friend to help – plastic wrap can be clingy.

Next I wrap that in a layer of bubble wrap, giving it some extra cushion.

Finally, I wrap the whole thing with brown paper from a shopping bag. I love using brown bags because it’s upcycling something, plus it thick and adds protection to my package.

The easiest way to turn a paper bag into packaging is to first cut down the seam of the bag to the bottom. Cut along the bottom edges, around all four corners until the bottom is completely cut off.  Open up bag and, voila! You have nice, big piece of packaging paper.

If there are graphics on the bag, I usually keep them on the inside of the package so that I have a clean surface to write the address. But sometimes grocery stores have really nice graphics that can add to the creativity of packaging. Aldi sometimes has a pretty tree or at back-to-school time some stores have doodles for kids to use as book covers. Many possibilities!

Sometimes I love the back of the quilt as much as the front.

Sometimes I love the back of the quilt as much as the front.

How do you package your items? I’d love to hear your ideas! Share your tips in the comments below.

Artfully sewing,

Angela Jean

Goodbye, Chicken Apron <>

Sometimes selling something on Etsy is a bittersweet experience. That goes for this apron I sold from my shop yesterday. I made it from a vintage tablecloth I bought at flea market a few years ago. I will write about the process another day. I made 4 aprons from the four corners, two with the chickens and lady, the other with a horse and buggy carriage. The other chicken apron I’m keeping, of course, but the two horse and buggy aprons are still for sale. Just click on the photo of it below to purchase.

Artfully sewing,

Angela Jean


Chicken Apron made from a hand stenciled vintage table cloth


All ready for cooking and baking!


This tablecloth was hand-stamped with a stencil, I believe. The other panel has slightly different colors.


Back view plus a peek at the   cool Artfully Sew tag.

Old Clothing saved from Goodwill pile by Upcyling

I have been going crazy on Pinterest again. One of my newest boards is Clothing Upcycle where I collect pictures of clothing that has been made by combining old pieces of clothing to make something new. It was time for me to rummage through my closet, get brave and cut up some clothes.

I love the color of this shirt, but it’s a little bit short on me. It’s been hanging so lonely in my closet for quite a while. Plus I don’t really like the tie in the front.


This colorful skirt that is a tad bit tight for someone in her forties. The fabric is so cheery and just my style – so worthy of a clothing updo.


These two pieces coordinate well and will make a great new piece!


I cut about 7 inches off the bottom of the skirt and gathered it to fit the bottom of the shirt. I attached it and covered up the seam with a piece of scrap lace.


The ties were removed and a piece of the skirt fabric was patched into the front.


Voila!! I Have a new top that will look great with a pair of leggings and trendy boots. I may even wear it Friday night for our first family band gig. If you live in central Wisconsin, come check us out at Mugs Coffeehouse in Ripon. Here’s our publicity picture drawn by my 11 year old daughter, NJ:


Daniel, Nora, Tom, Jonah and me.

Artfully sewing (and practicing for Friday),

Angela Jean