DIY · How to Update Vintage · Sewing · Style · Tennessee · Thrifts

How to Update Vintage: Put a Tab on It


So, this is the project that first broke my sewing machine. (I say first because, I got it working again and was able to finish this project, but when I started another one, the machine completely messed it up. So I’ll be taking  it to a repair shop ASAP – hoping it’s an easy fix and that I’ll be sewing again this week!)


It all started with a vintage blouse. I have a weakness for vintage blouses. This one has dark pink square-shaped polka dots and a cute little rounded collar. I’ve worn it a couple of times. I wanted to be able to roll the sleeves up, but they wouldn’t stay, so I decided to turn it into a tab sleeved shirt. I checked out other tab sleeved shirts in my closet to figure out how to do it. (That’s one of the cool things about sewing – when you like something you already have, you can study it and figure out how to recreate it. Yes, I totally geek out over sewing.)


I pulled out this light blue gingham to use to make the tabs. I liked that it was square like the polka-dots.


I cut it into a long strip about an inch and a half wide.


I cut the long strip into two strips 12″ long. I folded the strips in half and lined up the edges.


I ran 2 straight stitches down the long sides, 1″ apart, leaving one of the short edges open. I pressed open the seam and used yarn and a safety pin to turn this little tube of fabric inside out.


I pushed the safety pin into the tube, fastened it to the bottom of the tube, and pulled the yarn to turn the fabric inside out.


This leaves two little fabric tubes with the seams inside.


I pressed these flat and then folded the edges of the open end inside and stitched it closed.


I took one of the short edges and folded it down into a triangle.


I took that point and fold it down again and ran a straight stitch across the triangle to keep it down.

Now here’s where the sewing machine started to get janky. I tried to use the buttonhole foot that came with my machine, and I just couldn’t get it to work. I vaguely remember it not working the last time I tried it, but I guess I was feeling hopeful. So I googled “How to sew a buttonhole without a buttonhole foot” and found this great little tutorial.


I noticed the machine wasn’t acting quite right, but I pressed on and attempted to attach the tab strip to the inside of the shirt sleeve. That’s when the machine went NUTS! The needle went wonky, the feed wouldn’t work, and lots and lots of thread got jammed up. It was a mess. I proclaimed the machine broken and went on to post My Week in Numbers – I was super frustrated.

Then on Saturday, I decided to try again. But first I had to remove the messed up stitches from before. Using my seam ripper and squinting furiously to see, I carefully pulled out the threads from the shirt. (For the first time in my life, I started wondering if I might need reading glasses. I mean, I’m still a spring chicken (ahem), but it was almost impossible for me to see those tiny threads. I think I’ll head to the drugstore this week to see if I can find a hot pink pair to help with my sewing. That last sentence makes me sound very old.) I played around with my sewing machine settings, and it seemed to be working okay. I decided to NEVER use the buttonhole setting again.


You can see the shirt was a little worse for the wear of all the seam ripping, but I know the tab will cover it when it’s buttoned. I attached the tab on the inside of the sleeve by sewing a square at the top. Then I sewed a button in the middle of the square on the outside of the sleeve. I have hundreds of buttons exactly like this. I bought a jar FULL of them when I was in college from a place called Lilly’s Bargain Barn. Man, I loved that place – a barn filled with antiques and junk (and I mean that in the best possible way – piles of stuff that you dig through to find treasures) out in the middle of nowhere. My friend, Audrey, introduced me to it when we were in college. Everything was priced to sell, and I found my beloved Hoosier cabinet there. That cabinet is on my list of projects to tackle before the end of summer, so I’ll tell you more about it soon.


I thought I  might need a reminder to never use the buttonhole setting since clearly I had forgotten about the last time I decided to never use the buttonhole setting. I got out my dot stickers and brainstormed a good drawing to express my true feelings. I thought this was effective. BB thought it was awesome. I think I’m going to make a list of all the things that I should never do anymore. Just this week, I re-learned that Peet’s coffee gives me heartburn. (Oh my GOSH, I’m an old lady.)


Ta-da! An old vintage shirt with a new tab sleeve!


Proof that both sides are functional.


So, feeling pretty good about myself after I finished this project, I immediately started a new one, which is when I realized my sewing machine truly is broken – gobs of thread, not feeding properly, and now, disturbing “Ka-CHUNK, ka-CHUNK” sounds. Hoping the repairs are not only speedy but CHEAP! Wish me luck!

How to Update Vintage · Style · Thrifts · Uncategorized

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.

DIY · How to Update Vintage · Style · Thrifts

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.