Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Paisley with Purpose - Reworked Dress into Top

reworked dress into top by karen vallerius

A few years ago I reworked a vintage cotton paisley dress into this 1950s style retro top.  I love the colourway of this paisley and like to wear the top with jeans.  Of course, there were a few smaller scraps left over from the project and this week I made some "new" design Deco Daisy brooches, one of them shown above.


vintage 50s sewing pattern by karen vallerius

Above is the 1950s vintage sewing pattern which I used.  It was for a 32" bust (a measurement I have not fitted into since some time in the 1970s!) so I adjusted the pattern to fit.

reworked dress into top by karen vallerius

This is the original donor dress, I would guess 1960s, and a bit uninspiring to say the least.

Here is a very old photo of me wearing the newly refashioned top, I think this was about 6 years ago.

Change of address, hairstyle and number of wrinkles since then ...

reworked dress into top by karen vallerius

I have been trying to improve my virtually non-existent free motion embroidery skills by making some flower brooches this week.  I love the way that the reverse of the work is almost as pretty as the front in a sketchy, artsy sort of way.

vintage fabric flower by karen vallerius

vintage fabric flower by karen vallerius

Anyway, here is a close up of the freshly stitched flower brooch.  It is worked as a raw edge applique with some free motion machine embroidery and a button from the vintage stash.

OOAK handmade flower brooch by karen vallerius

Please visit my etsy shop if you would like to see more OOAK vintage and reworked garments.

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Saturday, 5 August 2017

A Tale of Two Tops

upcycled pretty pink tops by karen vallerius

More vintage embroidered linens and vintage Laura Ashley textiles have been upcycled into these two pretty in pink tops.  The lovely abstract floral cotton lawn in shades of pink and teal was cut from the skirt section of a vintage Laura Ashley sundress.  The top on the right also has panels of a check shirting in soft shades of grey and pink, rescued from a vintage mod shirt.  The collars are cut from vintage embroidered tray cloths.  It is always so lovely to repurpose vintage linens which would otherwise remain closed away in the linen cupboard.  I always think that the original needleworkers would be glad that their needlecraft finds a new purpose.

Find these tops and other OOAK upcycled clothing in my etsy shop.

vintage embroidered linen collar by karen vallerius

vintage embroidered linen collar by karen vallerius

The top on the left has a gathered hemline frill made from broderie anglaise cotton which was cut from a ruffled skirt.

broderie anglaise hemline ruffle by karen vallerius


pretty patch pocket in vintage Laura Ashley textile by karen vallerius

This top has a cute patch pocket stitched from a different vintage Laura Ashley cotton with a tiny embroidered floral patch from the tray cloth.  I left the edges of the pocket "raw" so that they will softly fray as the top is washed and worn, giving a gentle homespun charm.  And you all know how much I love vintage Laura Ashley textiles, see my Dottie Angel frock reworked from vintage Laura Ashley clothing here.

vintage textile scraps by karen vallerius

Now, what to do with the scraps?  I never can throw any textile pieces away - as demonstrated by the boxes and cupboards full of textiles in my sewing room.

Find these tops and other OOAK upcycled clothing in my etsy shop.


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Saturday, 29 July 2017

The Jolly Green Vintage 50s Pinafore Top

upcycled vintage 50s pinafore top by Karen Vallerius

A couple of months ago I found a fab 50s sewing pattern - Simplicity 5763 (in Sue Ryder Vintage & Retro in Peterborough of course!) for a great pinafore.  I had already upcycled an 80s skirt into this pinafore and wondered how the pattern would work if I took an entire skirt - here a lovely green linen skirt with great topstitched gored panels - then removed the waistband and cut the neckline and armholes from the pattern before seaming.

Discover my OOAK upcycled clothing in my etsy shop.


I used the pattern to make a half piece template for the neckline and arm openings.

upcycled vintage 50s pinafore top by Karen Vallerius

I then carefully positioned this onto the skirt and cut the openings before seaming.

upcycled vintage 50s pinafore top by Karen Vallerius

I unpicked the green binding around the waistline of the skirt and used this to bind the neckline.  I opened the centre front seam part way down and stitched a loop in the binding to fasten a vintage Art Deco button from my collection.

upcycled vintage 50s pinafore top by Karen Vallerius

I cut a pocket from a vintage 50s cotton bandana with a great spot design in yellow, green & white.  I used this to make a large pocket, lined with a vintage French provencale print, and fastened with another of the vintage 30s green buttons (read this post for details of the discovery of these buttons!).

upcycled vintage 50s pinafore top by Karen Vallerius

The pinafore has a lovely line with a great flared shape.  The oversized 50s armholes sit well on the shoulders and give a distinct mid-century feel to the pinafore.

upcycled vintage 50s pinafore top by Karen Vallerius

And here is the original donor garment, the green linen skirt.

upcycled green linen skirt  by Karen Vallerius

upcycled vintage 50s pinafore top by Karen Vallerius

Discover my OOAK upcycled clothing in my etsy shop.

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Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Cottage Applique Book Bag inspired by 1930's Country Houses

Once upon a time


Once upon a time there was a book bag, designed by me and stitched from a lovely piece of upcycled French provencale twill cotton ...

The Cottage Applique Book Bag by karen vallerius

The book bag was practical, just the right size, sat nicely on the shoulder, lined in lovely bright red, softly wadded to protect the contents but was, I have to admit, just a bit boring.

The book bag as art canvas


The size of the side of this bag was crying out for some decoration, just the right size for a picture canvas.  I had long been inspired by traditional cottage applique quilt projects as shown below in a 70s patchwork book from my sewing library.

vintage 70s patchwork book

vintage 70s patchwork book

1930s cottage motifs and Metroland homes


My inspiration for the design of this book bag is in fact even earlier than the 70s as it goes right back to the 1930s.  In the 30s, there was a vogue for using the country cottage as a design motif for all sorts of domestic needlework.  I have seen needlecrafted tea cosies, needle cases, string containers and blotters all decorated with country cottages replete with cottage gardens full of traditional English flowers.  Housing at the beginning of the 20th century was often cramped and of poor standard, with many people living in inner city flats with inadequate facilities.  The homes built in Metroland changed all that, and indeed many house designs of the 1930s incorporated elements of the "cottage" aesthetic in their architecture.  Below are some house designs taken from the Concise Household Encyclopedia by Hammerton of that time.

vintage 30s Household Encyclopedia by Hammertons

vintage 30s Household Encyclopedia by Hammertons

vintage 30s Household Encyclopedia by Hammertons

Even the title page of the Hammerton's Encyclopedia features a small illustration of a country cottage!

vintage 30s Household Encyclopedia by Hammertons

Designing the 1930s Cottage Applique Panel



The Cottage Applique Book Bag by karen vallerius

Back to my trusty cutting board.  I marked the dimensions of the side of the book bag onto the board using pieces of washi tape.  I then set to with pieces from my scrap stash designing the cottage.  I decided that I would cut the roof into the sky piece which would be represented by a panel of the navy provencal cotton showing through.  This early layout above shows a gate and hedges which I did not use in the final version.

Stitching the sky


The Cottage Applique Book Bag by karen vallerius

The sky background was the only piece of this design which I stitched on place with the sewing machine.  The ecru linen for the walls of the cottage was stitched with a running stitch to give a representation of painted brickwork.

Carefully stitching the applique picture by hand


The Cottage Applique Book Bag by karen vallerius

This was a lovely project to work on and I enjoyed the hand stitching.

It was a lovely project to incorporate some of my precious scraps of textile.  You will see fragments of gingham for the windowpanes; gold woven fabric for the door & dormer roof; 80s Laura Ashley dark red woven furnishing scraps for the flower pots, chimneys and door step; a 70s Laura Ashley bird motif on the roof; scraps of 60s Sanderson fabrics for the pathway and a William Morris for the potted trees; denim window boxes; antique French ticking window blinds, one of which has a tiny frayed hole; and blowsy roses cut from a 50s apron bloom at the windows.

1930s Needlecraft books


I often turn to my 1930s Good Needlework books for inspiration.  They were published during the 1930s until the outbreak of the second world war when their at times elaborate designs were overtaken by the practicalities of the Mend and Make Do approach to sewing.

A cushion design inspired my cottage on the book bag.

Vintage 30s Good Needlework Gift Book


Find this bag and other OOAK upcycled clothing in my etsy shop.

The Cottage Applique Book Bag by karen vallerius






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Sunday, 4 June 2017

Embroidered Vintage Linens into Cute Camisole Top

Embroidered Vintage Linens stitched into a Cute Camisole Top


embroidered vintage linens into cute camisole top by karen vallerius

Find OOAK upcycled clothing in my etsy shop.

Antique linens in the sewing room


If you look at the photo of my workroom below, the embroidered vintage linens are in the second horizontal storage box just behind the little 1930s felt dog.  I love repurposing antique linens by upcycling them into fashion or home items which can be used today.

embroidered antique linens by karen vallerius

Repurposing embroidered vintage tablecloths, doileys and traycloths 


I wanted to stitch the linens into some little summer tops.  I used pieces of damask and linen cut from antique tablecloths for the main "body" of the garment for which I used self drafted patterns inspired by vintage 30s and 40s dressmaking books.

I then looked through my vast collection of vintage embroidered doileys, traycloths, tablecloths, chairbacks, pillowcases and selected little embroidered motifs, flowers and butterflies which I could then piece together, a bit like a patchwork, into a panel which would be inserted into the garment.  Read more about making the patchwork panels of vintage embroidered textiles in my earlier post here.

Antique embroidered linens motifs


embroidered vintage tablecloths into camisole top by karen vallerius


I love the way that the pretty embroidered textiles can complement each other, even though they are stitched by different embroiderers and in different coloured silks.  In the close up of the linen camisole above you can see that I have used pieces cut from five different vintage tablecloths and tray cloths.  In particular I love the butterfly which is incorporated near to the tie front.

embroidered vintage butterfly motif into camisole top by karen vallerius

How to make a patchwork from vintage linens


embroidered vintage linen patchwork by karen vallerius

I marked the size of the panel I would be inserting into the garment on my cutting board with washi tape.  I then cut pieces from the vintage tablecloths and doileys and arranged them to roughly cover this area.  I then neatened edges of the patchwork pieces with my overlocker or by turning and hemming the edges before joining them together, piece by piece, into the panel.  Finally I set the panel into the garment piece before making up the camisole.

Repurposing antique embroidered tablecloths


This is a lovely way of using up precious fragments saved from antique linens which may have small areas of damage or wear.  You can cut around the damage and use the patches to make new garments as I have done here, or you can applique them to other garments or home textiles.  And don't forget that scraps of linen can be used for cleaning cloths which are amazing at cleaning glass or crystal.  Never waste a scrap!

Find these tops and other OOAK upcycled clothing in my etsy shop.

Happy stitching everyone


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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The London Kimono Vintage Tourist Scarf Refashion Project


The London Kimono jacket by Karen Vallerius


The London Kimono - A Vintage Tourist Scarf Refashion Sewing Project


Once I had worked on my pattern drafting for the upcycled scarf kimono jacket (more about designing the jacket here), I set to making up some more designs and repurposing some more of my vintage scarf collection.

I always LOVE vintage tourist scarves and keep an eye out for them on my vintage shopping trips.

I have several in my collection - from London, the Loire Valley, the Netherlands to name just a few - and I think that using them in garments is a great way to display their wonderful colours and artwork.

The London Kimono jacket by Karen Vallerius

Many vintage souvenir scarves date from the 1950s when scarf wearing was at its peak and overseas travel was booming for tourists for the first time.

More vintage scarves


The London Kimono jacket by Karen Vallerius

I love picking out toning scarves in colourways and designs to complement the "showcase" scarf which I select to use on the back of the kimono jacket, the canvas I guess.  Here I chose a 60s mod inspired floral in soft shades of pewter, rust, taupe and silver grey for the front.  The sleeves were cut from a slubby abstract floral in rust, grey and buttermilk on the front and rust toned paisley on the reverse.  The neckline was finished with a chocolate colour satin bias binding.

Tricks and tips for sewing vintage scarves


I have to admit that it is very difficult to sew vintage scarves.  They slip and slide at all stages of the sewing project, from cutting out right through to stitching together.  It is tempting to think, "Oh, that would be so easy to make!", but the reality is that you need a lot of patience when putting these together.

Cutting out


When cutting out I use weights (improvised!) to hold the scarves in place.  It is important to consider pattern placement before cutting and I take some time to decide where to cut the pieces.  If the scarf edges are in good condition particularly if they are hand rolled, I try to incorporate them into the edges of the garment as I like to make use of the manufacturing history of the scarf.  Also, you will often find that vintage scarves have small areas of damage, maybe small holes, as they were frequently worn with a brooch or scarf clip.  Fortunately these flaws are usually on the edges or corners so you can avoid them by careful placement of your pattern pieces.

Making up


Now that I have an overlocker this helps enormously when making upcycled scarf garments.  There is simply no way to achieve a good seam finish with an ordinary domestic sewing machine.

My construction process is:

1. Stitch sleeve fronts to front pieces and sleeve backs to back piece.
2. Stitch shoulder seams.
3. Stitch side seams.
4. Stitch hem.
5. Overlock neckline and front jacket edges if necessary before attaching satin bias binding.

Even though I have made several jackets now, not to mention numerous other scarf fashion garments, it is so easy for the scarves to slip while sewing together so always double check your seams are secure and that none of the scarves have slipped and therefore not been caught into the stitches before you proceed to the next stage of the garment.  It is easier to rectify problems before you start on the next part of the sewing process.

Press seams open as you stitch them to improve the final drape of the garment.

The London Kimono jacket by Karen Vallerius

Future kimono projects


As much as I love these kimono jackets and am really pleased with how the design has turned out, I want to try a kimono with a peplum next.  Watch this space!




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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Back in the days when all frocks were handmade

vintage dress by karen vallerius

OK, maybe I don't remember the days when the above pink & ivory dress was stitched (I think this one dates from the 40s!) BUT the next green summer frock in a funky green toned floral was probably made in the 1960s.

vintage dress by karen vallerius

During the 60s I stitched mainly toys and dolls' clothes, starting garment making when I went to grammar school at age 11.  I always chuckle when I see sewing patterns I used at school in the 70s under the vintage sewing pattern listings.

Huge destash currently underway in the sewing room as I am preparing stock for the vintage fair at Stamford Arts Centre next Saturday 27th May 2017.

Stamford Vintage Fair 27 May 2017

I don't know why (I have been "doing" vintage for many years now!) but I am always surprised when I find all the treasures and textiles in my stockpile.

Hope to see you there, starts at 11am until 4pm.


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Monday, 8 May 2017

Vintage Scarf Refashion #2 - Traditional Kimono Jacket

vintage scarf kimono jacket by karen vallerius

Ta da!, another vintage scarf refashion project completed!  So pleased with my traditional Japanese inspired kimono jacket.  Of course, vintage scarves are one of my passions - I love their colours and designs, fascinated by how each one can epitomise a specific vintage era, like a fashion timecapsule.  I have a huge stash of them (no surprise there then!), some in pristine condition - saved for best and never worn? - and some worn and loved with maybe small areas of damage or pinholes on the edges.

Vintage Scarves and link to the Bias Cut Vintage Scarf Top Tutorial


Today we mainly wear longer scarves, even infinity scarves, so I am always thinking of ways to refashion beautiful scarves from my hoard.  I drape and pin them on my mannequin and work out how to cut them so I can stitch them into upcycled garments.  Indeed, one of my most popular blog posts is my Bias Cut Vintage Scarf Top tutorial here.

vintage scarf bias top tutorial by karen vallerius

The Great British Vintage Scarf Kimono


Now, I have made a kimono in the past as part of my entry to a sewing competition.  I stitched several scarves together and cut out the neckline from one of them.  The sleeves were made from half of a square scarf attached to the main body of the garment.  The obi sash had rouleau loops cut from a long bias scarf to wrap round and fasten in front.  More on this project here.

vintage scarf full length kimono and obi sash by karen vallerius


New Design Detail for the Vintage Scarf Kimono Jacket


vintage scarf kimono jacket by karen vallerius

I changed the design of this kimono jacket by cutting a dropped shoulder line into the front and back pieces rather than simply attaching the sleeves onto the straight scarf edge.  I used a beautiful vintage 50s pictorial heavy satin scarf with a still life design of a bowl of richly coloured fruit on the back; I cut the sleeve pieces from two toning long 1970s scarves; and the front was made from a vintage 50s satin paisley scarf.

To complete the kimono I finished the front edges and neckline with a satin bias binding in deep blue. I love the way that the different designs and colours complement each other and give an eclectic feel to the kimono jacket.  This would be great worn with jeans or shorts to a festival; for the oldies amongst us would also look fab with wide velvet trousers for evening wear.


vintage scarf kimono jacket by karen vallerius

satin bound edges vintage scarf kimono jacket by karen vallerius



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