Many of you have asked me how I come up with my Before/After projects. Sometimes I repurpose an item (that's when you use an item for something other than what it was originally intended) as you've seen in my handbags made from dish towels or napkins, and my diaper clutch from a placemat. The real fun though comes from my thrift store finds. When I browse the racks, here's what I look for:
1. Fabric content- I like natural fibers, I avoid synthetics (polyester, rayon, acrylic). Cotton, linen, silk are good.
2. Pattern- I look for fun prints, funky retro patterns, a good scale (patterns that aren't too small or too large), and colors that are trendy.
3. Structural details- ruffles, pleats, embroidery, serged hems, buttons and zippers, etc.
I don't always go to the thrift store thinking "I want to make a dress for Avery, so I'm going to just look for items that would make a cute dress." I like to look at the clothes and based on the three items above, then try to see them as something different- would this shirt make a cute dress for Avery because it's already kind of shaped like a little dress, or would this skirt lend itself to a chic little handbag because it has great tailored pleating at the top, you get the idea.
Then I come home and wash all my finds because eventhough thrift stores have come a long way (see my previous post), there's still a little eww factor when you don't know where something came from. The next part of the process is picking the item apart- literally. Out comes the seam ripper and I have at it. By now I know what I want to make so this is when I deconstruct the item so I'm left with the pieces I want to reuse. Sometimes this involves ripping open a seam so I have one large piece of fabric, or it might be removing zippers, buttons, snaps, etc. if I won't be using them (don't throw those items away, keep them for your stash- you never know when you'll need a zipper or a button!). Once that's done I can finally start to layout my pattern. The laying out of the pattern is one of the most important steps. I'm a lazy sewer- if the item already has a nice finished or serged hem, I'll usually lay my pattern out so that I can use that existing hem. This way I don't have to hem it myself. This gives my new item the added benefit of a professional looking hem (if it's serged) that my machine can't do and will give my item less of that "homemade" look to it.
Pattern? If I'm making a dress for Avery, I will go to her closet and find a dress with the shape that I want to make. I'll turn it inside out and trace around it (be sure to trace it a little larger to accommodate seam allowances) on my new thrifted fabric. Cut it out and I'm ready to start sewing. Handbags are a little different. I've made enough of them by now that I've started making my own patterns/templates for the basic shape of the bag. I'll pin it to the fabric and cut it out.
The last part of the process is the embellishing of the new item. Can you sew on those buttons you removed earlier for a cute little detail? Was there a serged edge that you can reuse and sew on as a ruffle? It's the little embellishments that make your new item unique and have character.
So there you have it. Now go to the thrift store and see what you can find!