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 With just a few minor changes, this outdated wedding dress is now ready for the stage.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


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

Falling Leaves Apron

I finished up a few more aprons yesterday. I keep tweeking the pattern as I go. They all turn out differently which keeps it fun. I really dislike making the exact same thing over and over again. That’s probably why I seldom use the same pattern twice! Here’s the first one:

Apron of Falling Leaves


This apron is made from one of my hubby’s worn out work shirts. The color is very nice, so I cut it up and used the back of the shirt for the front of the apron. With the leaves falling outside as my inspiration, I matched up an embroidered tablerunner to use as the pocket. The pockets are accessed through the side instead of the top. In fact it’s just one big pocket, nice and generous in size. Isn’t the edging on this embroidered piece gorgeous?


The other side of the tablerunner will be saved for a future apron. After cutting the pockets, a nice sized middle section was left over. I couldn’t waste that beautiful crocheted remnant! By cutting it in half and sewing the edges together I created a nice skirt edging for the bottom of the apron. It felt a bit bottom heavy, so I found some leaf-like lace in my scrap bin that matched the leaves in the embroidery.


The back of this apron has a tie and suspender type straps. I’m hoping that this style will accommodate many sizes. The straps are made from the sleeves from the shirt as usual.


This photo also shows off my recently made dress form I constructed from chicken wire, a wooden hanger, a broom handle and the base of a broken office chair. It’s become a very handy tool in my studio!  Check out the post here to see how i made it.

Now the apron feels finished and happy. I will post more aprons throughout the week.

What is a good price for handmade one-of-a-kind aprons? What would you pay for this apron? Let me know you opinion below. Thanks!

Artfully sewing,

Angela Jean

Another Shirt Apron


This is so fun! I transformed another extra-large men’s dress shirt from Goodwill into a farmy apron. The lace came from my bin of scraps. The process is getting easier, now that I’ve got the hang of it.

I tried something new with this one. For the straps I kept the sleeves as they were and attached them to the back, cuffs and all. All I have left is adding the buttons and holes.

Off to the Janome!


Artfully sewing,

Angela Jean

Up-cycled men’s dress shirt turned into smock apron

I stopped by Goodwill the other day and picked up a couple of extra large men’s dress shirts for $2.50 a piece. I’m usually there on a hunt for vintage tablecloths and embroidered treasures, but when none turned up I hit the clearance rack. The shirts just begged to be up-cycled, so I tossed them in my cart and took them home. I love the smocky look and the way they almost feel like I’m wearing a dress or an old-fashioned pinafore. I swear I could have been born in an earlier era!


(Jazzy, my black lab, is posing with me.) I used a contrasting shirt for the pocket and part of the back straps.


I converted the sleeves from the shirt as the straps that button to the front of the apron. I finally get to dive into that button stash!


In true Artfully Sew fashion, I added a cutesy flower and blanket stitched around the outside.

Now off to make another one!

Artfully sewing,

Angela Jean

Quick Tea Cosy out of a Mug Rug

Wisconsin is cold in the winter, but this is ridiculous. My thermometer read -15 degrees this past week and the wind chill made it feel like -49 degrees! I don’t remember it ever being this cold. Ever.

Light bulb!

So when I made tea this morning, I wanted it to stay hot. Really hot. I have been meaning to make a tea cosy for my teapot, but hadn’t gotten around to it.

Quick Tea Cosy out of a Mug Rug

For my birthday my mom had made me some mug rugs. They are very nice for breakfast tea and muffins. The backside is made from a soft flannel which makes it insulated. I figured I could spare one for a re-purposed project. I headed to my sewing machine to make a tea cosy before my tea cooled off.


Impromptu Project

Quick Tea Cosy out of a Mug Rug

I had some hair elastics I keep on hand for various projects. I grabbed four of them, one for each corner.



I attached them securely with a zig zag stitch and trimmed the loose threads.

5 Minutes later…

Quick Tea Cosy out of a Mug Rug

Quick Tea Cosy out of a Mug Rug

With my tea pot in the middle, I looped the elastics around the top of the cover.

3e0fd-quickcosy09And, voila! A Quicky Tea Cosy!

And my tea wasn’t even cooled off yet.

This project took me like 5 minutes. So quick. And I re-purposed a really cute thing I will use day after day.

If you don’t have a mug rug, how about a pot holder or thick towel? Keep thinking and adapting to your own style.


 Now my tea will stay warm, even in the sub-zero weather.

Do you have a good re-purposed idea?  Post it below!


Kid’s favorite shirt repurposed as a bookbag

I’m sure everyone has a stack of kids clothes from years gone by that have become treasured keepsakes. Eventually I would like to make a T-shirt quilt for each kid but Nora had a toddler shirt that was just too cute to pack away.  I also really like the back of the T-shirt and didn’t want it to get lost in a quilt top.  After a bit of brainstorming, I decided to make a cute little book bag.

Kitty shirt 06

Materials used

Nostalgic Toddler T-shirt (a backside print is optional)

Blue Jean Skirt

Embroidered Belt


Fusible webbing (I use Pellon Wonder Under 805)


Clear Ruler

Sewing Machine


Before you cut

Making that first cut is always so hard because it feels wrong to cut up something you really love.  Sometimes it’s wise to listen to your gut because not every piece of fabric or clothing should be re-purposed. Before you make a cut, answer these questions to decide to save or cut:

  • Is the original fabric free of stains or rips? 
  • If it’s clothing, will it something that will pretty much never go out of style?
  • Will the new project be used less than it’s original design?
  • Does my child mind if I cut it up for a project?

 If you answered “YES” to any of the questions it may mean you are not ready to re-purpose this item. The shirt I used in this project did have a few permanent stains and although it doesn’t seem to be something that would go out of style, Nora really loved this shirt and didn’t want to part with it.  It seemed more useful to re-purpose it instead of tucking it away in a box.


As you can see in the above picture, I cut up the sides of the shirt and around the sleeves. I also cut away the seams because they are bulky and weird looking. I did the same on the backside of the shirt.


Add the webbing to make an applique

Before cutting the final shape I wanted for the applique, I took the unfinished shirt and cut a piece of webbing to attach.  My favorite fusible webbing is Pellon 805, but use whatever you like.  You will want webbing that is able to be sewn through or you will gum up your sewing machine.

Helpful Tip: Be sure to measure the webbing with the glue/rough side facing the back of your shirt. Lightly iron the webbing to make it stick slightly to the shirt.  You can permanently fuse it later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce the webbing was lightly attached I used my clear ruler to cut the applique down to about 10” X 12″.  Trimming the rectangle to a rounded edge gave the piece a softer look. 

I did the exact same for the backside piece/applique.  Now on to the bag.

Make a simple bag

Remember what I said about making sure your kid doesn’t mind if you re-purpose the clothing before you cut?  That advice is from experience.  The belt I used in this project was one Nora had wanted to keep.  She was kinda upset I cut it up for this project.  Oops.


I also used a skirt I had from long ago before I gave birth to three kids.  Yeah, it’s never going to fit me again so it felt really good to cut it up with scissors. It was also a great choice for a bag because it’s very heavy denim and will be very durable.


The bottom of the skirt lended itself well for a bag shape. The hem became the top of the bag so I would automatically have a finished edge.  Before sewing up the seams I added the appliques.  I have learned the hard way the importance of checking and rechecking the placement of appliques before ironing.  Wish I had a picture to show you, but I got so into the project, I forgot to take a shot!

After the appliques were fused I added a tight zig zag stitch along the edge to secure it and add texture. Plus, this will make the bag more durable and easy to wash in the machine.  

I turned it right sides together and sewed along the side and bottom to close.  I felt the bag winged out a bit so folded in the bottom corners a bit and stitched along there to make it more symmetrical.

I halved the belt and added the loops to the bag. Easy peasy!  

And there you have it.  A finished bag that will be used for years to come!

Kitty shirt 06

Do you have an idea to re-purpose favorite clothes or fabric?  List them below in the comments. I’d love to hear them.  

Artfully sewing,

Angela Jean