Friday, January 8, 2010

Sweater Refashion: Colorblocked Sweaterdress

Let me begin by discussing terminology. Remaking items into other items goes by many names: remake, refashion, reconstruction, recon, etc. These are all descriptive and your preferred terminology is merely a matter of taste.

But there is now an odious and trendy word that is making the rounds and I would like to do my part to stop it: "upcycling." When I first saw this I thought it was cute. Then I saw it a thousand more times. Then I hated it. First of all, it is overused. A search on Etsy yields 49,422 items (and a few moments later 49,425 items) using the term in some fashion.

And second of all, it is misused. I will buy "upcycling" for taking something that could no longer serve its original purpose and making it into something useful again. But most items that are labeled "upcycled" were actually just fine in their original purpose, but the person saw another use lurking behind that usefulness. Obviously, that's fine--considering the sweaters I used here (although the tan one has stains and a fair number of small holes so it was on the edge of wearable as a sweater) were suitable for their original purpose but I wanted them for something else. But don't give turning one useable item into another a cutesy, vomity, hipster name (and *definitely* don't give turning a useful item into something useless a cutesy, vomity, hipster name).

That is all. I feel better now. Here is my non-upcycled but refashioned colorblocked sweaterdress!

Colorblocked Sweater Dress Thumbnail

I have been thinking about this refashion for several months! I refashioned a sweaterdress last year, but it is a bit too short and too fancy for work so I wanted something I could wear on an everyday basis. I knew exactly what I wanted and went to the thrift store in November (I think) to get the sweaters. Then the color of my serger was never right and the project got back burnered. Luckily, PatternReview announced a Refashion Challenge for January 1-15, 2010. Perfect!

I purchased the largest sweaters I could find in the colorways I was looking for with mostly wool content. When I am buying sweaters at the thrift store I am a fiber snob! The thing to remember is that no matter how big a sweater seems, there is always less fabric there than you think.

Here's how you do it(there are larger individual photos of each step in the flickr album):

Colorblocked Sweaterdress Tutorial

I started with the red sweater. First I cut off the turtleneck and ribbed bottom. Then I cut up the side seams and resized it to fit me.

My brilliant flash with this was to scoop out the front neckline and ease the ribbed bottom of the sweater as the new neckline. I hoped it would make a cowl, but it makes more of a portrait neckline. Had I felt more confident about how long the sweater would end up after I had altered the sides I would have cut more length off with the ribbing (as it was I cut just one inch above the ribbing to have a seam allowance), which might have yielded me a cowl, but I didn't know how much it would shrink when it was more fitted.

I had already used the body of the blue sweater to make another pair of wool knickers to wear under skirts in winter. This is seriously one of the best ideas I've ever had. I wore pants on Monday for the first time since last year (I wear them maybe 5 times per year on the coldest days). If it's above freezing, the wool knickers and knee high boots are enough to allow me to wear a skirt.

I took the sleeve of the blue sweater, cut open the seam, chopped off the sleeve head, and cut a 5 inch wide strip from each sleeve.

I determined where I wanted the midriff to be placed, then cut off the red sweater to that length and sewed the midriff in place, lining with a strip of lycra knit fabric for stability as I don't want the midriff to bag out. I should have done a better job shaping the bodice before stitching on the midriff because I should have made a reverse saddle shape, with the bodice cut higher at center front and center back than at the sides, because it dips a little in front and back.

Next, I chopped off the arms and neck of the tan sweater and opened out the shoulders. I checked the length with the bodice midriff and cut a few inches off the shoulder edge, then stitched up the side seams.

I wanted a tulip shape to the skirt, so I used my dress form to figure out where I wanted the pleats to be on front and back. I decided to an inverted pleat type thing in the front, while the pleats in the back face outward.

Then I sewed the skirt in place and was done! All photos are here and the pattern review is here.

Front Back


When I came up for the idea for this project I was concerned that colorblocking was too early 90s, but it is one of those things that comes in and out of fashion rather quickly, apparently. My colors here might be a little too classic early 90s, but the silhouette is current so I think I'm ok. I found a few fun examples of current colorblocking to assure myself that I wasn't going to be stodgy and behind the times!

Ali Ro Knit Combo Dress - Prints - Ali Ro Velvet_Wool Contrast Dress - Prints -

I love these two yellow/black/white combos from Ali Ro. Yellow is such a great color but so hard to wear and having pops of yellow that can be kept away from the face is an excellent use of it.

Milly Colorblocked Wool Dress - Prints - BCBGMAXAZRIA Ponte T-Shirt Colorblock Dress - Prints -

I also love this more traditional Milly colorblock dress in unconventional colors. Orange is another underused color that's hard to wear but great for an accent. And of course, there is the classic t-shirt dress with the bodice in a contrast color. You could work some magic with BWOF 02-2009-119; I loved this pattern when I did it in an allover print.


KID, MD said...

The neckline is awesome; the fit is perfect; I love the inverted pleat. So great!!!

Little Hunting Creek said...

You are a recycling genius - I love your sweater projects. Very inspirational

Myra said...

Very nice, I would never have thought of that. You are so right, about "upcycling", an annoying term. I also think some people "refashion" just because they think it is the thing to do rather than really considering if it can be made over nicely. Yours looks great and your refashions always do.

gwensews said...

You have a nice make-over, or whatever term you prefer. It's cute, no matter what you call it!

Anonymous said...

Love seeing your refashioning! I have holes in a well loved fuschia cashmere turtleneck sweater. I need to figure out how to refashion it!

aurelia.donka said...

THANK YOU!!! for calling out "upcycle".

I find the term repugnant. It is loaded with a whole lot of moral superiority--oh, the original manufacturer didn't use these materials to make something useful or beautiful, see how I have made it transcendent.

Gag me with a pitchfork!

Anyhoodle, cute refashion.

Glad the knickers are helping you go mostly pantless. ;)

Sherril said...

Your dress is adorable. How will you clean it? Does the wool have to be dry cleaned?

marysews said...

I agree that "upcycle" is a fakey, barfy word.

I think your dress turned out better than the examples you shared.

Linda said...

I commented on your Flickr photos this AM! I came here this evening with the hopes you written something about how you created your garment. So very cute.

I am obviously very behind the "times" cause I have not run across "upcycling". Thanks for definition/clarification.

Jenny said...

I love both your new dress and your upcycling rant. :-)

Chan Rash said...

WoW thats really a pretty dress :-bd

Sigrid said...

Very creative work! Thanks for sharing your process so detailed. Inspirational and a very, very nice dress as result. The neckling especially (a special neckline always has my attention).

Heather said...

What a cute dress! Great refashion.

casserole said...

LOVE the dress! I can't wait for a good rummage sale so I can find a trio of old sweaters to make one for myself.

I blogged about your project on Craft Gossip Sewing:


Nancy K said...

Very cute.

Kathryn said...

It looks awesome!

AuntieAllyn said...

You are a genius . . . I am in awe of your creativity!!!

Vicki said...

How clever your are. Looks very stylish. Love the neckline.

Cindy Ann said...

Sweater, what sweater? I can't see anything but those fabulous boots. Seriously, you did an amazing job. It's lovely!

Anonymous said...

Haha! that term had always bothered, but I could never put my finger on just why. But you nailed it. I love the collar on your refashion. very flattering!

Michelle said...

Wow, great work!! I love the new neckline!!

Kathi said...

This is really cute. I normally don't go for such things, but you have done a nice job with it!

senaSews said...

The dress looks great. I love the neckling. Wow, you did a fabulous job in REFASHIONING your sweater :-)

amber said...

Really cute! The neckline is so flattering - nice work. :)

Marie-Christine said...

That looks really good! Thanks, I now know how I want the neckline for the sad sweater that's been sitting in my closet waiting for inspiration..

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, you are hilarious - love the "cutesy, vomity, hipster" bit - I get the same way about over-used words/phrases. In fact, Lucky mag has once last chance to stop using "on trend", before I protest...and if I hear anyone at all say "spot on", I may scream. At them. LOL Thank you for listening/reading. Your projects are great! : ) Signed, L in Cleveland