Sewing adventures: Summer sewing projects 2018

Have y’all noticed that I do sewing project posts during school year break times? (That means summer or winter break, and once in a blue moon, spring break.) Because that’s the only time I have the time — or let’s face it, the mental energy! — to tackle the various sewing projects that inevitably pile up during the school year.

This summer break, we have had to stay indoors a considerable amount of time due to the smoke haze caused by the summer wildfires blazing all around us in the Pacific Northwest. On the plus side, that meant that we had time to work on a lot of house projects together, and for me to work on sewing projects.

Chambray shirtdress:

First up, I had never liked the slight puffs on this denim chambray shirtdress that I bought years ago from eShakti, and which you’ve seen me wear here. Honestly, I always felt mumsy with those puffed sleeves, and as a result, I didn’t wear this shirtdress as much. (And while I love Anne of Green Gables and find her puffed sleeve passion adorable, I do not like puffed sleeves on me. I have broad shoulders, and I don’t need puffs to accentuate them.)

So I made this shirtdress sleeveless! Sleeves — and specifically, curved hems — are difficult, but I read this tutorial for how to make the process easier by using a wider facing.

Librarian for Life + Style | Denim shirtdress sleeveless sewing project

The photo above cracks me up! You can see the puffing on the right sleeve above. I used a stretch denim fabric I already had to make the facing for the sleeve on the right. But then I realized I could just use the same fabric from the existing sleeves (duh!), so that’s why the sleeve on the left above is shorter than the right one.

When I unstitched the sleeves, I realized that the leftover stitch lines made a fantastic guide to follow when sewing on the facing and then starting on the first topstitch.

Librarian for Life + Style | Denim shirtdress sewing closeup

I first thought I’d do just a single topstitch to make things easier on myself, but then I realized that a double topstitch would tie in more with all the other double topstitching on the rest of the shirtdress. It would make it look more professional and finished, plus another line of topstitching would help keep the facing flat. With all the topstitching, any mistake I made would show up, because I was stitching on the front-facing side of the fabric. My secret to be as error-free as possible? I went very, very, very slowly, even hand-cranking the needle around the curved parts.

All that effort was worth it, as I loved loved loved how it turned out! You can see what a difference that double topstitch made in the collage below.

Librarian for Life + Style | Denim shirtdress topstitch collage

Librarian for Life + Style | Denim shirtdress topstich closeup

My thread was slightly lighter in color, and thinner, but I’m pretty proud of the results!

Librarian for Life + Style | Denim shirtdress double topstitch closeup

I’m also thinking that making my shirtdress sleeveless will make it more versatile, as I can layer it over turtlenecks in the winter. And no more feeling mumsy when wearing a dress! Life is too short not to feel comfortable in one’s clothing. 🙂

Here’s a quick look at how the newly sleeveless shirtdress looks on me now. I took this photo, and others, in our walk-in closet, so the lighting is TERRIBLE. (Also, would you believe me if I told you that I *did* wipe down the mirror before I took these closet photos — I really did! — and yet smudges still stand out in the photos. Sigh. #bloggerproblems)

Librarian for Life + Style | Chambray shirtdress try-on

Bow blouse tie:

I bought a bow blouse years ago from the Jason Wu collection for Target, which I’ve worn before here. The “blouse” was actually a t-shirt, and the fabric was too light for the scarf part, so it always hung a bit oddly on the top. I’ve always liked the design of the bow/scarf fabric, so instead of the tee hanging in my closet, unworn, I decided to unstitch the bow/scarf fabric and turn it into a thin scarf, which I can use for a lady tie, head scarf, or fabric belt!

Librarian for Life + Style | Jason Wu scarf refashion sewing project

It was a pretty straightforward sewing project. I decided to just do a simple stitch along one side of the open part that I had unstitched from the t-shirt collar. The only tricky part was the slightly slippery fabric.

Librarian for Life + Style | Scarf stitching closeup

The fabric that was around the t-shirt collar is obviously thinner than the ends, but I don’t mind that. It will make the fabric easier to use as a lady tie, and when I use it as a head scarf, it’s long enough to wrap twice around my hair.

Here’s how my new thin scarf looks now, as both a fabric belt and a lady tie. And bonus shirtdress pics! 😉

Librarian for Life + Style | Trying on my new scarf tie and newly sleeveless denim shirtdress

Vintage caftan:

This one is special, as it involves a vintage caftan that my mother had bought decades ago when my parents travelled to Thailand. This caftan is older than I am! It has beautiful embroidery, and the rich purple color is still completely unfaded.

I had stored it years ago, and I recently decided to try it on again. The only problem? My hips are now wider, and I could baaaaaaaaaarely fit the caftan past my hips. I was scared I was going to pop seams.

Librarian for Life + Style | Purple caftan closeups

So I decided to check on the underside to see if there was enough fabric to widen the hip seams. And that’s when I discovered something really neat! At some point in the last forty years, my mom had actually sewed an additional seam to take in the sides — so all I had to do was unstitch the seam my mom had put in, in order to widen the hip seams back to their original width. Woot!

The only issue, and it was minor, was that my mom had also cut in the sides to provide more shaping for the waist and had done a zig-zag stitch to secure the ends. So that meant that I would need to add another seam of my own, but a shorter one just to connect the top and bottom parts of the original seam. You can see the original seam, my mom’s zig-zag stitching, and her seam alternation in the photo below.

Before:Librarian for Life + Style | Purple caftan sewing closeup, before


I thought it was amazing that the original line my mom had drawn with the hem marker was still visible. I discovered this as I unstitched my mom’s seam alteration. This means that my mom did a great job following that hem marker line!

Librarian for Life + Style | Purple caftan sewing closeup


Below, you can get a better idea of what I meant by needing to sew a new seam to reconnect the original hem. Super easy! And I actually appreciate that my mom had cut in this bit of fabric in the waist, as it does provide more shape for the caftan.

Librarian for Life + Style | Purple caftan sewing closeup, after

I gained an extra half-inch on each side with this simple alteration. And when I tried on the caftan afterward, it slid up my hips just fine. WHEW. Success! The simplest sewing project of them all, but the most satisfying one. 😀

Here’s a look at me in newly altered — but vintage! — caftan. (Note: The color of the caftan looks more berry in the photo below, but that’s because of the terrible lighting in my closet. In real life, it looks like the deep, rich purple you can see in the closeups above.)

Librarian for Life + Style | Purple caftan try-on

Do you enjoy sewing? If so, do you prefer to sew new pieces, or do you like to refashion existing clothing more? Please leave a comment and share!

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5 thoughts on “Sewing adventures: Summer sewing projects 2018

  1. Kezzie

    I’m very.impressed at your alterations Jen! They really do look good. The shirt dress is so neat and I love that you’ve still got your Mum’s Kaftan and that she gave you a gift by taking it in so you had material to let out!
    I really like the idea of sewing and adjustments but I really need to enroll on a sewing course as I have material I’d like to use and things I’d like to adjust!x

  2. Natalia Lialina

    I applaud your sewing skills! I think I have the exact same denim dress from eShakti, and I also don’t wear it. I wonder whether mine has puffy sleeves or regular ones? I can’t remember. I loved it both ways on you, sleeveless is more summery, and if you want to add sleeves, there are always ways to do it by layering. 🙂 The purple vintage kaftan is gorgeous! How wonderful to have it from your Mom!

    1. Jen @ Librarian for Life and Style Post author

      eShakti had a whole line of similar dresses with this same denim chambray material a couple of years ago, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least that we were drawn to the same (or similar) piece! I am definitely looking forward to getting more use out of this shirtdress 🙂

  3. Pingback: Layering a yellow cardigan over my (newly sleeveless) denim shirtdress | Librarian for Life and Style

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