Man's Shirt Upcycle

These instruction assume an intermediate to advanced upcycling experience.

1) Measure your chest circumference under arms. This will be the measurement you will use for the top of your tunic. The under collar and collar of the dress shirt is your bodice, and must extend a bit under your arms so that the flaps of the collar can fold down to the right and left of you straps, but are not lost under your arms. 

2) Cut off the sleeves for pockets* in #4, or set aside for straps.

3) Cut the top of the shirt using your chest measurement + seam allowance. Add two front darts and two back darts to achieve best fit.  

4) The side seam of your tunic and pockets will need to line up, so start by cutting 4 pocket pieces from the tops of both sleeves. Use your hand to determine shape, with thumb positioned at the top of the pocket with side seam at your wrist. See illustration. My illustration should have shown a deeper pocket, so make as big and deep a pocket as the sleeve allows. You can reduce if necessary later. 

5) Try on top to pin sides and adjust darts. Give enough room at the hips for pockets. Once you have the right fit across the chest, baste sides graduating from the waist out to the hem of the shirt, creating as much as an A-line as possible to accomodate pockets. Try on again to adjust fit and find your pocket placement. Pin where you want the opening of your pockets to be.

6) Open garment inside out and place pockets on marked side seam, with pockets pointing inside of garment, and trim pocket and side seams to match. Rip out basting stitch and place pockets inside body of garment right sides together, pin pockets to side seams, and stitch, both sides of pockets to both sides of side seam. Open pockets out, right sides together, and stitch final seam down side seams and around pockets to hemline. If this is confusing, it is. You might want to google a 'how to' You Tube before attempting.

7) Lastly, roll hem the top of your tunic all the way around. Open the bottom seam of the collar and under collar piece, and tuck the front of the tunic into this 'bodice', matching center seams, etc. Stitch closed. Make straps with leftover side seams (or if you did not make pockets, use the sleeves), and pin to fit, then sew. 

Good Luck! *Alternatively, you can add outside pockets as i did on the Blog Post picture.


Blooms of Summer

At the Pivot Fashion Show at Mark and Anne's Art Party in 2016, the cameras (and audience) loved Ella, our model pictured on the left.  In a crowd of 12 models all wearing beautiful hand crafted hats, one  attendee came running over as she picked Ella out from our crowd of fashionable beauties.  While it is obvious her hat, designed by Stella Shen (, is sensational, it is important that our outfit supported rather than coordinated with this floral creation.


What this boils down to is that the hat takes center stage in this ensemble, and that the outfit supports the head wear rather than competing with it, or for that matter, matching it.  If we had dressed Ella in yellow or green, the outfit would have cheapened, ruined, or tarnished the elegance of the hat. Instead, by dressing our model in the softer hues of the grasses supporting the blooms in the hat, the color pop of the flowers speak for the entire ensemble.


This is a good rule to follow if you do not want to be challenged with coordinating different prints and colors, which is hard to do tastefully.  The term 'color pop' refers to a digital image in which part of an image is shown in color, while the rest of the image featured in grey or a dull monochrome. In fashion, using color sparingly, but dramatically, can often be a key to creating drama without going overboard.



Re-purposed Girl's Summer Dress

Children grow out of clothing so fast, its handly to have some sewing skills to re-purpose some of our discarded clothing for them.  This camilsole was eight inches larger than the little girl, so all I have to do was reduce the size of the original top through pleating.  Then I shortened the straps and presto!


I have seen adorable dresses made from men's dress shirts for women and little girls (see and The best part of sewing from discarded clothing is that if you make a mistake, you can either rip it out or discard it as originally planned!




The Power of DIY Sewing

Y'see, when I was a girl, fashion was expensive and hard to come by. Even in an upper middle class family, my back-to-school wardrobe was limited to one dress, one jumper, a blouse, and a new pair of saddle shoes. My mother had six kids and managed a tight budget. As the only girl, there were no 'hand-me-downs'.


Thank goodness home economics was offered in public schools, so we girls had the choice of learning to cook or sew.  I had no interest in feeding my family of eight, so I enrolled in sewing, and soon learned that I could make clothes that were more interesting (to me) than what I could buy in the department stores.


During my career in Industry, I depended on retail boutiques and department stores for my office attire until one time, that didn't work for me. I had an event to host in Scottsdale Arizona, so needed a few pieces that would work in a resort setting. I shopped for two days, hitting every big time mall in the South SF Bay Area, and found nothing for my efforts. It was February (wrong season), and post winter sales, but no matter the excuse, I ended up empty handed. If I had spent that time sewing instead of shopping, I would have had more than a few outfits for my conference.


These days I take vacations instead of attending conferences, but I sew most of my resort clothes. The t-shirt caprices my model is wearing above and in my blog post preview takes at most 2 hours to complete, from the cutting board to the final hem. Equipped with a sewing machine and a quick turnaround, why aren't more sustainable fashionistas looking into DIY sewing?


A Simple Summer Bolero

Edgy, yet conservative, this kind of styling works for all ages, young and old.  And most events, casual to dressy.  In this picture we have featured a black and white design, but imagine the colors and patterns this style garment can support, and the combinations and permutations go as far and wide as the mathematical computations our minds are capable of can go.


Stripes and polka dots, contrasting plaids, primary color contrasts with trims to bring them together, the design palette for creating this garment is unlimited.  And  the garment itself provides a spectacular fashion lift to a simple camisole or tank top.  And the beauty of this style is that it is simple to construct.  No darts, princess seams, or hard-to-fit challenges.  If you want some help designing your pattern for this top, let me know!


This pin was borrowed from Etsy, but the source was not available, so I do not know who to give credit to for this wonderful photograph. 



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Tube Dress Tutorial

Use a jersey knit fabric for this dress. No hemming required. Your fabric will be the width of your hips, + your seam allowance; the length will measure from your shoulders to hemline + 10 to 12" depending on. how much drape you want in front. You can always cut off extra unwanted length, but you cannot add, so keep this in mind.


Fold fabric in half, right sides together. Baste stitch this tube together about 10 to 12"" down from the top and 10 to 12" up from the bottom. You will either add to this seam or remove stitches to adjust your fit. Finding the right placement for the armholes, getting the drape you like in the front, and ending the back seam at the base of your neck is a bit tricky, so you can wing it, or try the dress on inside out over your arms, and get some help pinning safety pins on the dress where the armhole should go, and the back neck seam (and slit in back hem) should end.


If you want to 'wing' it, you can measure the dress from the desired hem line to your underarm, and start your armhole there. Measure the depth of this hole (shoulder to underarm) and cut this circle right in the middle of the tube between the fold line and the seam. I do this by folding the tube in half again, matching the center fold line with the back stitch line, and cutting a half circle out there. Try on inside out and adjust. Once you have the correct back seam in place, overstitch the basting stitch and reinforce at the top and bottom.


Finish the armholes with 2" strip folded like a bias tape, or sew the the strip right sides together around the armhole, leaving room for a seam under the arm, and fold and hand stitch to the stitchline on the inside.


A Skirt to Go to The Moon and Dye For


Making Your Own T-Shirt Pants


You will need two t-shirts that are wider than the circumference of the top of your thy, measured from under arm to underarm, across the width of the t-shirt (see illustration). One will be your pattern, the other your sample garment.


1) Sit on a hard surface, and measure from your waist to the top of the surface. This will be the approximate depth of your crotch seams (+ seam allowance and 1/2" for elastic at the waist). Your curve will be shallower in front than back, depending on where you carry weight. If your tummy is larger than your rear, your pattern will reflect the opposite. If your body carries equal weight in front and back, this curve will be similar, you can adjust after you sample is made. 


2) Measure waist and divide by 2. Place a ruler under the crew neck, marking waist length + seam allowance. You will have to guess where the front and back crotch meets the waist on your first pattern, but if you have an accurate waist measurement (divided by 2), and accurate thy measurement, these curves plus your assessment of where you carry weight in front and back should give you a good first try fit. Mark your waist points with a sharpie at the front and back.


3) Measure t-shirt from crotch line to hem line to determine the length of capris, then measure from your own crotch to this length to determine the width of pants at the hem. Divide by 2. 


4) Fold your t-shirt in half, matching side/shoulder seams and sleeves. with the front waist point on top. Cut your front crotch seam using the illustration as a guide, cutting from under the t-shirt's sleeve to front waist point as illustrated. You want a right angle when you start your cut, and a right angle when you are cutting the waist line (in #6 below).


5) Mark hem line from fold using leg measurement divided by 2. Cut from top of crotch to hem line using a straight line, or straight up from the hem and curving gently toward the crotch. This cut can be perfected more when your sample is made and you fit the garment to your body. And again, try for a right angle at the hem and top of crotch (illustration is a bit misleading at the hem).


6) Now open the t-shirt up for the last 2 cuts, the waist line and the back crotch. Cut a straight line from the front crotch point to the back crotch point. Now cut your back crotch curve, as generously as possible, and you can remove fabric much easier than you can add.


7) Baste you pattern t-shirt together before cutting you sample garment. With right sides together, sew front and back crotch seams. Then fold front and back crotches right sides together and stitch the length of both leg’s inseams. Try on inside out, so you can pin the adjustments you want to make to the pattern.


For your final garment, cut a piece of elastic for the waistband that is smaller than the waist of the garment (and comfortable around your waist), and zigzag raw edges together into a circle. Mark or pin the elastic in half, then again to get 4 equal quarters. Match your front and back crotch seams to determine pant side seams, and pin. Matching crotch and side seams with elastic points or pins, fold raw waist band over elastic, stretching elastic, and zig zag in place. Hem bottom of pants, or leave raw. Enjoy!