Monday, April 25, 2016

Repurposed Men's Shirts #s 27 - 31 (and a little upcycling math)

How many men's shirts do you need to create one dress for a seven-year-old? A hell of a lot more than I would have thought. The 3-layered skirt of this adapted New Look pattern (#6319) requires volumes and volumes of fabric. Luckily, my local thrift store has daily color-coded sales with the lowest coded price set at just one dollar, so total materials price for this creation was $5.

Dress front

This is a moderately challenging jigsaw-puzzle-type project that can be used when recycling old garments for use in any pattern. You simply need to study, turn, and twist your original garments, cutting them open as needed, to come up with fabric for your new project. The voluminous circle skirt layers required for this dress meant having to piece and stitch together fabric from the shirts before cutting out the pattern.

Hidden pocket

One adaptation was a hidden pocket underneath the first circle skirt layer, addressing that perpetual problem I have with the fact that garments for little girls always lack pockets...and pockets are power!

Shirt back

Other adaptations included dropping the waist a bit more than was called for in the original pattern, and substituting a shirt placket with buttons from one of the original garments for use as a back closure instead of the zipper called for in the pattern.

I liked the 7-year-old version so much, I decided to make one for her 5-year-old sister as well. Just repeat the upcycle math above: 5 shirts for one dress at the cost of $5.

Dress front

Piecing together the jigsaw for this dress involved using one of the shirt fronts, positioned sideways, for the front of the dress. Because I didn't want this set of buttons to open, I sewed the placket closed about an inch and a half down from the edge. This dress, unlike the one above, does not have a dropped waist.

Added polkadots

Because I found the finished dress a little somber and boring, I added some stitched on polka dots.

Hidden pocket

And again, a garment for a little girl that has no pockets is no garment of mine. A hidden pocket was positioned underneath the first layer of ruffles.

Dress back

Once again, the original placket and buttons from one of the men's shirts serves as a handy back opening.

Now the question: What to put in those hidden pockets? I decided to put a little gift package inside each of the hidden pockets, and each package contains...a coyote toe bone. This seems like a useful talisman for the child who wants to invoke some general, all-around spirit magic. These were purchased at Paxton Gates on Valencia in San Francisco, and I'm going to assume the coyotes in question had a good life and a peaceful death.

Wrapping up the bones

Coyote toe bone

And there you have it — upcycled couture for two little girls skipping into the 21st century, with a small measure of magic thrown into the mix.

21st century children's couture


  1. Well done. I see it appears you have a button on the pocket-- which I always recommend. When turning cartwheels, climbing trees, or even just hop-scotching, a button on a pocket is vital. I might add a mini-compass in the pocket to help knowing where north is when exploring can be valuable in addition to the general magic and good spirits of the outfits. And, yes, I'm surprised how many shirts each garment took. Overall, well done and a project to put on my "to-do" list for the little girls in my life.

  2. Alas no, no button on the pocket. What you're seeing is a buttonhole - I used the finished edge of the buttonhole placket side of the shirt as the top edge of the pocket to save myself some sewing. But I thing depth of pocket and covering ruffle will keep things in. And yes, a compass would be great.

  3. you are so right, pockets are power!
    thanks for sharing
    martine @ silencing the bell

  4. You are such an awesome grandma in so many ways!


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