Karlene's Workshop

My sewing, refashioning and upcycling projects revealed
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Finished Barn Dance Costume

  • 10/09/2009 10:54 am

I got my costume for Barn dance finished this week – which is good as Barn dance is this Saturday.
The skirt is from my previous post, up cycled from an old dressing gown, and the denim corset is made from an old pair of jeans.

I put in the eyelets and lacing yesterday, then last night I had a terrible dream about half of them falling out. I have had bad experiences with eyelets in the past due to incorrect inserting technique and trying to use synthetic material. Was so relieved when I woke up and realized the corset was still in one piece!

I am writing up a tutorial to make a corset which I had hoped would be finished by now, but it is very long and detailed, and I’m finding it hard to remember some of the important steps I did at the beginning. I really need to write stuff down as I go along!
I am also missing some vital photos I took, which may be on Keith’s card that has gone walkies…


My nieces get their bags

  • 05/09/2009 1:56 pm

We had a family party last week so it was a good time to give the girls their bags. They had fun trying them on and posing for me while I took photo’s, and then they were off playing, pretending to go to their party.

Here is Alyssa with the bag that she designed herself.

Alyssa showing her bag

Alyssa modelling

Here is her sister, Briana,

Briana modelling

Oooh look at that

And here is the birthday girl, Rylee.

Rylee and her bag

I also got a couple of photos of them going to their “party”


Baby clothes quilt no.2

  • 29/08/2009 11:26 pm

Yay, it’s finished at last. I started making this quilt for my niece Rylee about 3 years ago, when my brother was wanting to pass on her outgrown clothes. I had made one for my son Ewan, and was quite keen to do another using pink girly clothing. It has turned out much bigger than it really needed to be. I think I had originally intended to make it 3 x 4 blocks, but somehow decided that 4 x 5 blocks would be a good idea…now it covers our king size bed!

Rylee's quilt

I used a nine patch block with the central square cut in denim (from her jeans) to give some stability to the stretchier knits. Most of the denim squares had some kind of embroidery detail already on the fabric, so the plain ones got the applique treatment with different flower motifs. As with Ewan’s quilt, all the knit fabrics are backed with fusible interfacing to stop them stretching as I sew. I machine quilted along the sashing strips running across the quilt, and did lots of hand quilted motifs all over the quilt using images from the fabrics as inspiration.

Quilt blocks

Here is Rylee receiving her quilt.

Rylee cuddles her new quilt

I think she liked it!


Handbag for Rylee

  • 23/08/2009 3:14 pm

I made this bag for my niece Rylee a little while ago. She just turned six, so when we celebrate I am giving her this along her quilt that I have been working on for the last year. My other nieces will get their bags too.
This one is a slightly shaped tote style bag with a flat oval base.

Rylee's bag

I used vintage floral cotton from Nana’s stash for the outer, and some orange floral/stripey cotton for the lining. I think this fabric was from my mother- in-law who kindly donated me some of her scraps a few years ago.

Inside Rylee's bag

The flower brooch is made from a vintage floral fabric, I have seen at least two dresses that my Nana made with it. I have always liked the bright colours in it and only managed to get a small scrap, just big enough to make a gathered fabric rose.

Fabric flower brooch

I attached the flower to a brooch finding and pinned it around one of the handles. This is so Rylee can move it or use it to close the bag, or wear it if she wants to. Or just take it off if she doesn’t like it!

Pinned on


Circular skirt pattern and Barn Dance costume part 2

  • 17/08/2009 8:50 pm

This is how I recycled an old dressing gown into a swirly dancing skirt.

The easy option here would have been to make a straight skirt, or a paneled skirt with flare at the hem, but I really like the way checks look cut on the bias in a circular skirt. And it’s going to be worn over a frilly square dancing petticoat. Obviously there was not enough fabric in the dressing gown to make a full circle skirt, so I just made it as ‘circular’ as possible with bias front and back, and whatever I could get out for the sides.

First I dug out my circular skirt pattern and checked the measurements. They are fairly easy to make, similar technique to the fairy skirt.

Here’s my circular skirt pattern tutorial:

1. Take your waist measurement. This will be the circumference.
2. Divide this number by 6.28 to get the radius.
3. Get a large square piece of paper or card. Starting from a corner, use the radius measurement to mark out a 1/4 circle. This is the waistline.
4. Decide how long you want the skirt to be. Using a metre rule, measure this distance from the waist to mark a large 1/4 circle.
5. All done! This will give you a 1/4 circle “block” pattern piece (without seams/hem). Cut 4 panels for a full circle skirt, with one panel on the fold if you want to get rid of a seam.

Remember to add seam allowances and hem allowance before you cut out fabric!

This will be fitted at the waist and will need a zip or button opening. If you want to make an elasticated pull-on version, then use your hip measurement for the circumference.

Back to my barn dance skirt. I laid the dressing gown as flat as possible and marked out two panels from the back, with the centre of the pattern lying on the true bias, as wide as I could get them at the hem with seam allowances. These panels become the centre front and back.

The next step was the side panels. I put the pattern on the front panels of the dressing gown, this time with the centre lying on the straight grain of the fabric, and again marked the shape as wide as I could.

I then stitched up the side panels, leaving an opening on a side/back seam for the opening.

The belt that came with the dressing gown was about the right width for a waistband so I took the easy way out and stitched it straight on, leaving a few cm at on end for the button wrap.

I tucked in the raw edges where they were cut before sewing.

Last step before hemming is to hang it up for a while to let it “drop”, as the bias bits usually stretch and spread a bit more than the straight bits. I will post another picture of me wearing it when it is finished and hemmed.


The Plan – Barn Dance costume part 1

  • 14/08/2009 12:20 pm

I’m going to a barn dance next month and I need an outfit. I have a bit of a reputation amongst friends for having original costumes so I couldn’t possibly wear the same thing twice!

I found this tartan dressing gown at the Sallies (Salvation Army Opportunity shop) for $5 NZ to use for fabric for the skirt. Bargain! Look at all that fabric in the back.

Dressing gown - before

Back, before transformation.

I’m going to use an old pair of jeans to make a corset and will make or find a shirt to go underneath for modesty.

Here is a picture of the fabrics against each other, with the black square dancing petticoat that will go under the skirt.

Pile of fabric

I was thinking about using the denim vest you can see in the picture as part of the corset, but decided against it as there is not enough fabric and too many seams. So it will be just the jeans to get recycled.

This is sort of the look I am going for, but a longer, more family friendly version!


Hand bag for Briana

  • 08/08/2009 1:47 pm

When my 5 year old niece Briana saw her sister designing a bag to be made by me, of course she wanted one too. Her design was not as detailed as Alyssa’s, but she was very certain that it was to be pink. The drawing she did was hard to see so I haven’t posted it. She said “I want it a pink square bag, with one handle and lots of flowers like Nan’s (referring to a bag I made for my Mother), all pink”.

I just so happened to have a pinkish denim skirt with a ruffled hem that I got from an op shop with the intention of turning it into skirt, so I used that as the base and rifled through my scrap stash – I keep everything – for pink bits for the flowers.

Here is the finished bag.

Bag for Briana

I cut out 2 rectangle shapes as big as I could fit into the skirt panels, sorry I didn’t take any before pics :-( it was a straight paneled skirt with a shaped hem.

I stitched these together and boxed out the bottom by sewing a triangle across the the corners ( I promise to take lots of pictures next time and do a tutorial!) and used the ruffle on the hem to trim the top edge.

I used the reverse side of the skirt fabric to cut 3 of the applique flower shapes and some pink cotton to do the other 3. For the floating flowers, I made 3 from floral cotton scraps and 3 from very special pink taffeta lining and pink floral nylon scraps, saved from a dress that my Nana made and wore to a wedding. I stitched beads in the centre to secure the flowers, this is the same technique I used on my denim jeans skirt.

All pink

I cut the strap as long as I could get it but it was still a little short, so I lengthened it by adding two strips to each end in lieu of a D ring. This left a funny looking gap. As I was wondering what I could do to fix this, I saw some pink and purple feathers in my pile of ‘pink stuff’ and remembered something Gok had done to a bag with feathers and beads. Ah ha!

I stitched the feathers to the back of the strap and used a hot glue gun to secure them properly, with a piece of ribbon over the top to look pretty. Glue is pretty ugly even on the back of something. Then I added some beads on the front side.

Beads and feathers


How to make flowers from fairy skirt circles

  • 04/08/2009 8:31 pm

I was inspired by these gorgeous felt flowers made by Koala Brains
and it gave me an idea of how to use up all those leftover circles you get after cutting out circular/fairy skirts.

I will show you how I did mine, with 5 petals. My method is a little different, after having a play around I found this was the best way with larger circles, in flimsy fabrics. The size of flower you end up with depends on the size of your circle.

1. Find centre of circle by folding in half, then in half again. Mark with chalk on the wrong side of fabric.

2. Mark a line from the centre of circle to the outer edge.
1st line marked

3. Mark 4 more lines from the centre evenly spaced around the circle. This will involve some maths.
360 degrees divided by 5 petals = 72 degrees.
I used a protractor to measure 72 degrees between each line.
Measuring angles

5. Cut thread at least 20cm longer than the width of your circle and thread onto a needle. Secure thread at the edge of circle and sew/tack along line to the centre.
1st line stiched

6. Leave a tail approx 10cm long, or if you have 5 needles available to use, just leave the needle on.

7. Repeat with other 4 lines.
Lines stitched

8. Pull threads one at a time and stitch to secure in the centre with a knot. Be careful not to tangle the needles!

9. Secure and cut threads, turn over to right side. Ta da!
Front of flower

Now you can have fun with them by cutting some circles smaller and layering the flowers.

Make a fairy hair clip/barrette by attaching a hair clip finding, or a brooch by attaching to a pin-back or…


Hand bag designed by Alyssa

  • 30/07/2009 12:47 pm

My seven year old niece Alyssa asked her mum if she would help her to sew a bag with her sewing kit. I asked her if she would like me to make one for her, of her design. She looked up at me with big round eyes and said “Can you make bags Aunty Karlene?”. I replied that yes I could, and showed her the bag I was using that day, that I had made. She had a look, got very excited and announced that she would draw a picture of her bag design right away.

Her is her drawing, complete with detailed design brief:
Alyssa's design brief
She wanted a round blue bag, with two handles, red on the top, a green button, a pink bow surrounded by black dots, “a real one, you can make the bow and then sew it on, Aunty Karlene” and a purple letter A for Alyssa. Wow! You can also see her first drawing of a more square bag that got crossed out when she changed her mind. This girl knows exactly what she wants.

I followed her design as much as possible and here is the result:
Bag for Alyssa
I used blue denim for the base and red velveteen for a flap. I wanted to use black sequins for the “dots” but do you think I could find any? After an hour of hunting in the sewing room and house, I decided to use beads instead. I used zig-zag stitch to sew on the purple ribbon to make the A, and managed to find a green button in my stash that looked ok with the other design elements.

I hope she likes it!

Her younger sister Briana also wanted a bag, more details on that soon.


Basic fairy skirt tutorial

  • 24/07/2009 12:43 pm

I made a basic fairy skirt to wear to  a theme party about three years ago and enjoyed wearing it so much that I wished I had made one sooner instead of waiting for a occasion to wear one. Every day should be a fairy skirt day!

I would like to share the technique I used. It’s a fairly quick and simple way of making a dress up skirt for children – or yourself – if you don’t like shop bought ones.

You will need at least two layers of fabric cut into squares, roughly one metre squared will give you a length approximately to the knee on an adult. You can make the squares larger or smaller depending on how long you want the skirt to be and how wide your fabric is.

I used four layers, first – purple satin lining (goes on the bottom),  second-mauve nylon organza, third-purple  net/tulle, and fourth (top)-mauve organza with a sparkly star print.

You can use whatever type of fabric you want,but I would recommend using something non-see through on the bottom.

Layer the fabric on on your table or floor alternating between “square” position and “diamond”.


Now you will need to cut a hole in the centre big enough to go over the hips.

Hip measurement plus ease divided by 6.28 will give you the radius measurement to draw a circle with a compass, eg. hip measurement of 94cm plus 3 cm ease (97cm) divided by 6.28 equals 15.45cm, get a compass and set it to 15.45cm, draw a circle, and the circumference should be about 97cm.

Use the circle as at template to centre over the squares/diamonds and cut hole.  Ok, back up a bit. Before you lay your squares out, fold each one in half, then in half again to find the centre. You can then use the dot from the compass in the middle of your template to line up with the corner that is the centre of the square and cut through four layers, using a quarter of the template. Or you can fold/cut your template into quarters and place on top edge to edge, then cut. Do this for each layer. If you are very brave, or have a fancy cutting tool you could do all the layers together. Pins are allowed – just don’t hit them with scissors, they don’t like it.

Make a casing for elastic by cutting a strip of fabric as long as the circumference of the circle plus 2cm seam allowance, approx 6cm wide, and stitch together. Cut elastic to fit waist measurement and join up, fold casing in half right sides out and attach to skirt with elastic inside.

This can be tricky, you can attach casing first if you want, leaving an opening for elastic and then thread the elastic through. Personally, I think that way is even more tricky, its up to you :-)

You could also just use some matching ribbing or knit fabric for a waistband, as long as it doesn’t stretch too much after sewing on to the skirt. We wouldn’t want our fairy to have her skirt falling down!

Basic fairy skirt

Now add a pretty top, some wings and a wand and off you go.