Giving New Life to a Too-Small Shirt

The picture doesn’t do justice to how uncomfortably tight it was 😂

It’s no secret that I love everything Disney, and in the past year or so I started following several style bloggers and small shop owners who create Disney-inspired looks and goods, making it so that even though I don’t get to go to the parks everyday, I get to live vicariously and experience Disney magic basically everyday. Sometimes these Disney fashionistas wear things that I just can’t help but covet, and a few months back, one of them wore this adorable Minnie Mouse macaron shirt that I REALLY wanted. Well, fortunately for me, she mentioned where she got it in one of her Instagram Stories! Unfortunately for me, she got it years ago from a company that no longer exists. So I took to the internet and Googled around until I stumbled across one on Poshmark! Score! Except it was a size small in a brand that ran small, and there is no way I’m a small. But I bought it anyway, because I’m crazy and crafty and up for a challenge - and I just couldn’t live without that fabric in my life 😉

It came, and it was just as small as I thought it would be. I put it on and felt a bit like a sausage. Brainstorming I came up with a couple options - I could either just put a stripe of some fabric from the wrist all the way up to the armpit and then down to the waistline, or I could add my own sleeves and add some fabric to the torso.

So, on New Years Eve, rather than party, I sewed. I opted for the second option, and decided to reuse the wrist cuffs, and use the sleeves as extra torso fabric. I decided to go with plain black fabric for the sleeves, in a soft jersey material that I had some scraps of. I used an overlock stitch for everything except for the hem, which is just a straight stitch (which is okay since it’s such a loose shirt).

Step One: Rip that tiny shirt apart!

This was probably the most difficult part, mostly because my hands got SO TIRED. I ripped every seam apart except for the shoulders and neckband.

Step Two: Create new sleeve pieces.

This step involved a bunch of guesstimating. After deciding that an extra 6 inches of fabric was going to be good for the added side panels, I used the shape of the existing sleeves as a guide for my new sleeves. I ended up cutting four pieces, two for each side, because that’s what worked with the shape of the scraps of black I had, and I was not about to leave my cozy house in the 5 degree weather. I then created two sleeves (basically black tubes), by sewing right sides together. If you have big enough pieces to work with, you only have to do one seam per arm on this step, but I had to do two.

Step Three: Add side panels to torso piece.

I cut each original sleeve into a rectangle, and attached them, right sides together, to each side of the torso. At this point, I could have just bound the armholes and made a flowy tank top!

Step Four: Attach new arms!

With the body inside-out and the arms right-side-out, pin the arms to the armholes, right sides together, making sure that your bottom seams match the middle of the armpit, and the tops of the sleeves match with the shoulder seams. Sew and try on your (almost finished!) shirt. I noticed that, because all I’m doing is guesstimating with stretchy fabric, I had a bit of extra fabric in the armpits, so I sewed another seam to make less fabric in the under-arm. I did this by turning the shirt inside out, and folding at the existing armpit seam. Next I pinned the fabric together, because they are stretchy and different shapes, and sewed, tapering out and back in, creating a sort of crescent moon shape. After trying it on again and being satisfied with the result, I chopped off that extra fabric with my rotary cutter.

Step Five: Attach wrist bands.

Decide how long you want your sleeves and trim accordingly (take into account your wristbands if you have them, and seam allowance). Pin right sides together, by having sleeves right-side-out and wristbands inside-out, and sew. 

Step Six: Finish hem.

Depending on how the original hem was finished, your step six may look different than mine, but because of the way my original shirt was finished, I just had to even out the extra panels I added, and stitch along the bottom (because this knit fabric doesn’t fray - woohoo!). I could have tried to match the thread color to the light grey that already was on the shirt, but I decided to just do a line of black all the way around instead - a cute little accent that matches my sleeves!

And voila! I’ve got a fun, versatile and unique Disney shirt. I can lounge in it, I can wear it to the parks, or I can pair it with some jeans and still be presentable. In the past, before I started sewing, I’ve passed on buying shirts that were too small or too big despite being in love with the fabric. Now, I can choose to create something instead.

Note: This shirt isn’t necessarily perfect - I could still be working on this, especially step four, tweaking it constantly if I let my perfectionist tendencies take over, but because it’s drapey and stretchy, I’m totally okay with the imperfections.

Happy crafty new year!

Holiday Cards on a Budget

I love getting mail any day, but I especially love getting holiday cards in the mail this time of year. My family never did it while I was growing up, so when Nathaniel and I moved in together, I decided to make it a tradition. The first few years we didn’t have that many people on our list, so I ordered them online. I could justify the price because we were only getting a few dozen cards.

2017 - Photo of us by Maddie Camilli. Photo of my fur babies just by me. I’m so glad I got this picture of them, as little Munch is no longer with us.

But as the years went by, our list got big. Especially after we got married. Last year we sent out 136. No joke! On average, the beautiful cards I see online tend to be a couple dollars a piece (with options for foil and borders which can drive it up, but they do usually include an envelope, which is great). But with a mortgage, a recent kitchen remodel, and trying to save money to do fun things, I just can’t justify spending $260+ dollars on cards. And that’s not even including postage.

2013 - Taken with a self timer. Can you find the hidden bunny?

I’ve also never splurged for a professional photographer. My sister, Maddie Camilli, is an amazing photographer, so I haven’t felt the need. I typically pay her back with a meal or baked goods. We’ve also just set up a tripod, and we’ve even just used fun photos from throughout the year before. Honestly my favorite was from 2016. We went on our belated honeymoon and I chose selfies from each country we visited in Europe and then put “Merry Christmas” in the native languages by each photo. No professional photos at all, and most of the pictures we chose were taken with our GoPro! I LOVE that thing.

If you don’t care much about text, you could always just do a photo, but I usually embellish at least a little. I use Photoshop, but if you don’t have access to that, you could probably use a word processor, or a free online photo editor. I like to find cute fonts (dafont.com has a ton of free ones), and sometimes I do Google image searches for free clipart, like holly leaves, stars, lights, menorahs, whatever! A tip, though, leave a little wiggle room at the edges - I’ve had text and snowflakes cut off because I put them too close to the edge and the printing process isn’t 100% perfect.

2014 - Combo of self-timer and adorable pet pics from the year

We (well, I) have found a good “hack” if you will these past few years. Rather than getting professional cards done, I design my own and get them printed as 4x6 photos. I’ve been going through Walgreens the past couple years because they have the lowest price I’ve found, and I can usually pick them up the same day I order them. So not only do I save on the cards themselves, but I don’t have to pay shipping! And last year I happened to order while they were having a sale for 10¢ prints, which meant I paid $14 + tax for the photos! I always order a couple extra just in case. Plus I want to keep one for myself!

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting our cards printed on card stock and sending them as post cards, but so far I have always decided to send them in envelopes instead. I figure they’re a bit more protected that way. I like to just get envelopes (size A6 for photos) at Staples, because we have one locally. This year I just walked in and bought three boxes of 50 white envelopes for $9 a box (plus tax). The downside is that you can’t get the exact number you need, but I’ve just used extras for other mail throughout the year, or used them the next year, sometimes mixing and matching colors of envelopes.

2015 - Photo: Maddie Camilli. Also, fun fact, it’s hard to get this doofy dog to pose normally. We had a lot of funny outtakes 😂 And do you spy the hidden bunny?

Honestly, the biggest expenditure is the stamp. I bought 140 forever stamps and one international stamp, which cost $69.75, but usually this time of year, you can choose a cute design, and if you have to buy a few extras, well, that’s not a bad thing to have lying around the house.

I usually hand-write addresses. I’ve printed out labels before, but because I do it so infrequently, I always forget the process and it seems to take just as much time researching the best way and formatting everything as it does to just write them out. I knocked all ours out in a couple hours. Just queue up a Christmas movie on Netflix and you’ll be fine. When we moved into our house I had a stamp made with our address, so that’s saved me some time these past couple years, but writing that out isn’t so bad either.

So last year all in all I spent:

  • Walgreens: $15.24 (11¢ a picture)

  • Staples: $27.72 (19¢ an envelope)

  • USPS: $69.75 (49¢ a stamp)

That’s a grand total of $112.71, INCLUDING tax and postage. If you break it down by card, that’s just 79¢ each, with a few extra envelopes, cards and stamps just in case. I’d say that’s a win. Another big benefit for me is that I didn’t have to wait to get anything shipped, which is super convenient! And if you don’t have a crazy long list like we do, you’ll save even more ;)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year… Whatever you celebrate (or don’t), I hope you are well and get to enjoy some special time with the people you love!

2016 - Featuring selfies of our belated honeymoon, mostly taken with our GoPro, plus candids of the fur babies. This is by far my favorite card I’ve designed!!

PS: I actually applied this method to our wedding party invitations and thank you cards, too! Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE cards and if money were no object, I might go with some of those beautiful professionally designed cards for invitations and holiday cards. Especially those ones with foil accents… but at this point in our lives, it just doesn’t make sense to splurge on that.

A Classy Ragdoll Dress

The back cutout detail is my favorite! 😍

I love dressing up. Both in fancy things and in costume-y things. But I also know that realistically I don’t need a closet full of Disney costumes (unfortunately), so I try to find ways to combine my nerdiness with my need for functional clothing, and my latest attempt is a knit version of the Belladone Dress by Deer and Doe. It’s funny the way I get ideas, too. This was spurred by the fact that Facebook advertized some cute Sally (from Nightmare Before Christmas) leggings, but they were only available in kids sizes! Thanks a lot, Facebook. 

Anyway, it sent me down a little bit of a rabbit hole, in which I contemplated if I would really wear those leggings enough to search and search, or if I’d rather make something. The answer is almost always making something. And again, Spoonflower to the rescue! They had some beautiful fabric called “ragdoll scraps” which would work perfectly. They had a small and large version, and I went with the larger one. I also have had the Belladone pattern laying around for over a year, and I love the back cutout detail, so I decided to go in that direction. While it might not be an everyday dress with the fabric I picked, it would definitely be more than just a Halloween or Comic Con outfit.

Choosing the fabric type was a bit trickier. With the sampler pack I got from Spoonflower, I was looking for something sturdy, comfortable, and not too thin. I also wanted something with a bit of drape, because I like to twirl. Even though the pattern calls for woven fabrics, I decided to go with the Organic Cotton Knit. It’s not crazy stretchy like jersey, and it’s thicker, too. If I got lucky, maybe I wouldn’t even need a zipper! Will I ever do a pattern exactly how the instructions tell me to? We may never know 😉

I got to cutting, and (just like the other Deer and Doe patterns I’ve done), the instructions were well made, and the dress started to come together well. The darts were a little funny since I used stretchy fabric and a zig zag stitch, but I’m probably the only one who will notice that.

This pattern was the first time I ever did this type of armhole and neckline binding with bias tape. I got thin double fold black bias tape, but I think I probably could have just done single fold. It would be slightly less bulky, but I’m actually quite pleased with how these turned out, especially for my first try!

At a certain point, you get to where you can kind of put the dress on like an apron, and when I did that I noticed it was BIG! But it’s probably because the fabric I used has stretch, but the pattern calls for woven, non-stretchy fabric. So, wearing the dress like an apron, I grabbed the fabric behind my back and figured out how much extra there was. I pinned the dress back right sides together, and sewed a seam about 1.5 inches from the edge of the fabric. I went down only as far as below the waistband (in case I didn’t like it), and pulled it over my head. It fit great! And without a zipper! Woohoo! I then finished the back seam, tapering out to the edge of the fabric to keep the skirt nice and full.

The hem is not your standard hem - it uses a facing. I don’t really know why you’d choose one over the other (maybe a decorative touch?), but I liked the method, and it seems to give the skirt a bit more body? I don’t know. It looks good, though. A normal hem would probably work in a pinch, though. I also decided to do a top stitch, rather than an invisible stitch, to finish the facing/hem. Because Sally’s dress is made of scraps, and she is literally all sewn together, I figured a black visible seam would compliment the outfit nicely.

I decided to finish the outfit with a bow headband - Sally has red hair and I had some leftover burgundy velvet from another project that would be a fun accent.

Photo by  Maddie Camilli

Put it with some burgundy boots and you’ve got a dapper Sally costume!

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Luna Lovegood Shorts (Fending off Wrackspurts in Style)

One of the best things about sewing is being able to create something nerdy, useful, and unique - and who embodies that as much as Luna Lovegood? I kept seeing a Luna circle skirt (because I follow wonderfully creative people on social media), but (A) I knew I could make a circle skirt, and (B) I already have a LOT of skirts. I also discovered that the actual skirt worn in the movie was purchased at H&M, so I figured I'd steer away from trying to make a perfect replica.

Enter the Chataigne shorts by Deer and Doe. I felt these had just enough whimsy, but were still a garment I could wear around. Finding this fabric was the hardest part, but Spoonflower ended up having a great option. I went with the Cypress Cotton Canvas, which I think will soften up nicely after a few washes. I ordered a sample pack from Spoonflower (only $3 - SO worth it!) so I could feel each option. The sample is not as stiff as the printed fabric I ordered, but I’d imagine that’s because the printing is fresh. Even after the pre-wash I did, I noticed a difference, and I’m excited to see how these shorts break in as I wear them. I found this canvas very easy to sew with, too. The pleats hold very nicely with the texture. I also chose the fabric because it felt like it would be more resistant to wrinkling than some of my other options.

That SUPER high waist - featuring Rosco, the photobomber

The Chataigne shorts come with two versions, and I went with the high-waisted, scalloped-hem version. Be warned, though - the high-waist is NO JOKE. Maybe I just have a small torso, but these go up to my ribcage! I found the instructions easy to follow, and I think this pattern is very approachable. The hardest part was being patient during that scalloped hem (which I have done before, but enjoyed the fact that this pattern had the scallops already traced out for me).

I started out by tracing the pattern pieces onto Pellon 830 tracing fabric - I love this method! Since I’m not cutting up the original pattern, I can make different sizes or alterations later. Once I’ve cut out the fabric pieces, I still like to keep the traced pattern pieces with them. Often I find that some pieces are verrrry similar to one another (especially in these waistband pieces!), and keeping them with the tracing piece helps keep me more organized. Another thing I recently discovered is that, while not as perfect as a serger, overlock stitches work great to finish edges and make the garment look a little more professional from the inside.

The Chataigne shorts have decorative pocket flaps, but I decided to go with actual back pockets! I made some Safran pants (another Deer and Doe pattern) a little over a year ago, so I just grabbed the pocket piece from that pattern and lined up the top of the pocket with where the flap was supposed to go. I could have also put the flaps on, but I decided that, especially with the thickness and stiffness of the canvas I was using, I didn’t want the extra bulk there. I also didn’t worry about matching the fabric, since it’s so busy anyway.

Stitching in the ditch

When attaching the waistband lining, I got to practice a technique I hadn’t don’t much before - stitching in the ditch! It’s exactly as it sounds: you hide a seam by putting the stitch in a “ditch" already created by another seam. Because my fabric was black, my thread was black, and the fabric is so bulky, this was a good (forgiving) project to practice with. 

I also decided not to worry about how hidden the invisible zip was for this piece. I was still having horrible flashbacks to the Tania Culotte zipper disasters from last month, so I decided that since the fabric was black and the zipper was black, and I wanted to be able to zip myself in and out of the shorts easily, I’d just insert it without worrying too much. If anyone is looking closely enough to criticize my zipper insertion, they need to sort out their priorities. (Also, another great thing about making things for yourself rather than others, is that if something is imperfect, you get to decide how much you care). In hindsight, I probably didn’t need to interface the waistband at all, either, since the canvas has so much structure to it. But live and learn, I guess!

I finished the outfit with some radish earrings from my friend graciemakesthings, my Alex and Ani Platform 9 ¾ bangle, some Converse sneakers, an owl necklace, and, of course, some Spectrespecs. Plus a special shoutout to hubs who takes my picture anytime I ask him to, even if I’m wearing weird glasses 🤓

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