How to Update Vintage: Hem Like My Mammaw

OK, I’m back today with another little tweak to a vintage piece, and I LOVE it. It was such a simple little fix that changed this dress from a little bit frumpy to fantastic.

DSC_0016Here’s what I started with – and let me tell you about it. I have a favorite thrift store here in town that is attached to a consignment shop. Most people would say there’s a thrift store attached to the consignment shop, but I always hit the thrift part first because the prices are great. The consignment shop usually has newer, brand name items (I’ve found great jeans there), but the deals – and most of the vintage – are found at the thrift store.

DSC_0063So, a couple of months ago, I was shopping for a light, summer dress, and I decided to try the consignment shop. I saw this one – fun colors, but not really what I was looking for – and it was at consignment price (maybe $10). I liked it, I saw it’s potential, but I didn’t want to spend $10 on it. (I KNOW, it’s only $10, but thrifting has ruined me for prices.)

DSC_0073Then I went in a few weeks later, and the dress was still there, but now it was $3. YES, I will totally buy it for $3. All it needs is a new hem.

Now, I know you might be thinking, “Why would you cut apart vintage? Isn’t that like painting an antique? Won’t you ruin it?” Maybe, but I am a believer that even antiques are meant to be enjoyed, and that might not be in their original state. When I find that antique armoire I’m dreaming about, if I don’t like the color, you better believe I’m going to paint it. And if I’m going to actually wear this dress, it’s going to need a better hemline.


This is a homemade dress made out of a thick polyester knit. It is just like the pantsuits my Mammaw used to make.


She used the leftover fabric to make polyester quilts for all the kids and grandkids. (I should note that Mammaw also made other beautiful quilts out of cotton calicos – the one I remember most is a Holly Hobbie pattern.)


But the polyester quilts are famous in our family – many a picnic or ballgame has been enjoyed with a “Mammaw Quilt”, and I remember my dad using them on the garage floor when he would crawl under the car to change the oil. Even now, miles away from their East Tennessee origin, I keep a Mammaw Quilt in the back of our car, just in case.


I’ve always loved looking at the different prints – can’t you just imagine the polyester pantsuits made out of these fabrics? Gotta love the 70s.


And you’ve got to love a dress with stripes, especially if you’re hemming it. It’s so easy – just pick a stripe and cut along that line. Then, when you’re setting the new hemline, use the stripes as guides for ironing and pinning.



It works as a fun dress for summer…


and it will work well with boots in early fall.

mammaw polyester dress

What a difference the hem makes! Don’t be afraid! Small little updates can make a big difference.

How to Update Vintage: Windowpane Blouse

Happy Monday! Hope you had a good weekend. This weekend felt like lots of catch-up – errands, home projects, cleaning, and making lists.

One list I made was all the projects I’d like to complete before summer is over. A few months ago, I did a big closet reorganization, and at the end, I had a huge pile of clothes that needed a little tweaking – sew a hole, shorten a hem, remove sleeves – small little projects. Of the projects I’d like to complete soon, most are vintage finds that just need a little updating, so I thought it would be fun to do a project series.


Over the next month or so, I’ll be posting a couple of projects each week, highlighting vintage pieces that are easy to find at thrift stores and showing some ways to update them.

The first project that came to mind was one I actually did last summer but never got around to posting. (The photos were taken in the old house before we moved. Oh, those stairs, I don’t miss you at all!)

Vintage Blouse

I found this blouse at the thrift store for a couple of dollars. I happened upon it the same week I stumbled across this blouse from Off of Broadway (a blog that is no longer updated but that is full of vintage inspiration). I knew when I thrifted it, I could cut the sleeves off to make my own version.


My shirt (by “Fritzi” – seriously, the names of some of these lines are so fantastic) has these cute little buttons on each shoulder.


I’m a sucker for little details.


There were a few small problems that needed some rehab. Both side seams had some separation.


I pulled out my thread to find something that matched. (The one on the left was the surprising winner – riveting stuff, I know!)


I used my sewing machine to close up those open seams.


Next I tried on the blouse to determine where I wanted the cut the sleeves. I asked Husband to help me pin the sleeves just to save time. As I saw the pin he stuck haphazardly into the sleeve, drawing very close to my skin, it became apparent that Husband had never used a straight pin. We had a mini-lesson, and he marked the sleeve perfectly. I still might just use chalk next time.


Using my cutting mat and rotary cutter, I chopped the sleeves off. And now is where you find out what a cheater dog I am. I’ll start with a back story.

When Husband and I were first married, living in our on-campus apartment, I borrowed my mom’s OLD Singer sewing machine to make some curtains. While there was definitely a problem with the tension on that machine, there was also quite a bit of user error. Either way, the curtains were not pretty. AT ALL. But I hung them anyway.

sewing shortcuts

Shortly after, my dear mother-in-law gave me this book. It’s great, and it’s definitely my kind of sewing. I don’t need perfection, I just need functional. This book taught me how to sew tiny little hems on slippery fabric. Here’s the trick:


After cutting the sleeves, turn the blouse inside out and pin the tiniest hem you can, folding just once.


Next iron this fold.


Run a stitch along this fold, basically just tacking the edge down.


Make another little fold and then pin and press this down as before.


Sew this fold down, and you have a tiny hem that doesn’t unravel. And your cheater dog stitching is on the inside and doesn’t show. (I asked Husband about “cheater dog”, and I googled it. Neither knew what I was talking about. I remember this phrase, most likely from middle school, but apparently it’s not really a thing. I did find this, though.)

DSC_0063Here they are – cute new sleeves.

DSC_0117Perfect blouse for the “cheater” dog days of summer.

Five Things

Wow! It’s Friday already? We haven’t been terribly busy, but the days have felt full in the best possible way. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, but these lovely Summer days are pretty great. Here are a few things that have been on my mind this week:


1. So this was fun. My Prom Dress Skirt was featured in this post about refashioning formalwear on the Paris Ciel blog. Lots of cute ideas – I love this DIY tulle skirt, this 80s dress makeover, and this 50s wedding dress to prom dress makeover. (Also, I would never have thought of DIYing my own wedding dress, but after seeing this and this, I’m sold. Maybe BG will want a DIY dress one day? Yeah, doubt it.)

watercolor lettering

2. Watercolors. BB went to a birthday party at Michaels last weekend. (BTW, who knew you could do this? It was fun – he painted a birdhouse, got his face painted, and decorated cupcakes.) For a party favor, my friend sent home little paint-by-numbers kits with all the kids. It was really cute, and BB worked hard this week on his. Since we had all the paint supplies out, I decided to play around some on my own. SO. MUCH. FUN. I haven’t done watercolors in a few years, but I quickly remembered why I like them – fun gradients of colors and tints, easy to work with, and just so pretty. I tried handlettering a new blog banner – it wasn’t perfect, but I’m getting there. Stay tuned!

3. “Are you raising nice kids?” This article from the Washington Post states that about “80 percent of the youth in the study said their parents were more concerned with their achievement or happiness than whether they cared for others.” Whoa. I like how the article listed specific examples of ways to teach compassion to kids.

4. Orphan Black. I blame Husband. He found this one night while browsing Amazon for free shows, and now we’re 9 episodes in and hooked. (We rarely watch TV – we don’t even have a TV right now – but we’re getting close to binge-watching over here.) It’s SO different – I tend to like light and funny shows, and this is a dark, sci-fi one that has made me cover my eyes on more than one occasion. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

vintage necklace

5. Thrift of the week. While checking out with my fourteen forks, I spotted this vintage necklace. LOVE the color and the two different shapes of beads. Usually I thrift jewelry to redesign it, but I like this one just the way it is.

Do you have fun plans for the weekend? House projects are continuing here. We (well, Husband) painted the den last weekend, and we’re going to finish up the trimwork this weekend. We are still in negotiations as to how this room is actually going to function when it’s “done”, but we’re months away from “done” so no rush. Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!


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