Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Thrift Store Makeover: Old Navy Blouse Edition

A few years ago, I bought an Old Navy blouse at a thrift store to wear for my student teaching. I bought it mostly because I loved the grey and pink flowery fabric, even though the shirt wasn't quite as long as I'd like, and the sleeves were a little too short when I bent my arms. Consequently, I only wore the blouse if I also wore a cardigan over it. 

Now that the blouse has been sitting in my closet for a while, I thought it was ready for a makeover. My basic plan of action was to get rid of the sleeves and use the fabric to lengthen the blouse a little.

First, I removed the sleeves by carefully cutting close to the arm seams.

Then, I cut off the gathered part of the sleeve that would sit at the wrist and ironed the fabric flat.

My seam looks like it was made on a slight angle.  This is because I was taking in the top of the side seam, and not the empire waist.
Before I finished a nice edge for the arm holes, I tried my new tank top on. I found that the arm holes were too big, so I took in the side seams a little bit. Starting about 3/4 inch from the original side seam, I sewed at an angle so that my seam ended right at the empire waist line, without taking in the waist line.

Arm holes: before and after taking in the side seam. First you see the white tank top underneath, and then you don't!
 Now that the arm holes were an appropriate size, I was ready to create a clean, finished edge.

I cut some long strips of fabric from the sleeves, joined them together, and used the iron to fold the fabric. In essence, I created my own bias tape. I sandwiched arm hole edges inside my bias tape and sewed all the layers together.

When I got all the way around with my ruffle, I had to connect the two ends of the  ruffle (see bottom two pictures).
I used the rest of the fabric from the sleeves to make a ruffle along the bottom of the blouse, lengthening the blouse by about two inches. First, I cut the remaining sleeve fabric into 2.5 inch wide strips. I then sewed all the strips together end-to-end. Next, I hemmed one of the long edges of this narrow strip. This became my new bottom edge of the blouse. Then, I started pinning the fabric to the blouse, folding the strip onto itself every few inches to create a ruffle. I had to unpin and repin my ruffle several times before it looked the way I wanted it to.

sewing           before ironing           after ironing
When I was finally ready to sew the ruffle to the blouse, I kept each pin in place until the last possible second so that the ruffle wouldn't come undone. Then, I ironed the ruffle so that it would lie flat, rather than stick out like a little tutu!

I was surprised that I had a lot of sleeve fabric leftover. I decided to use the remaining strip of fabric to make a decorative ruffle around the neckline. To make this ruffle, I began by hemming the other long side of the strip. Then I hand-sewed wide stitches in the center of the strip (each stitch was about half an inch long). As I sewed, I bunched the fabric up along the thread, which creates the ruffled look. Next, I measured how long I wanted my ruffle, and made an appropriate knot in my thread at that length. 

Like the bottom ruffle, I pinned my neckline ruffle about every inch before sewing. I kept each pin in place until the last minute so my ruffle would stay the way I wanted it.

Done! With these changes I might actually wear this thing!
The final product is even better than I imagined because I love the extra ruffled neckline. This is going to be a great tank top for humid Wisconsin summers because the fabric is light, airy, and so breathable. It's even compatible with nursing with the deep v-neck (score!). 

Now if it would just warm up around here...we're well into April and it's 39 degrees outside my door!

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