Back when I started this blog, I spent a lot of time doing clothing makeovers. I took pieces I had in my closet or found thrifting and changed them to make them better. (I even did an entire month of projects like this (for 31 Days), modifying thrift store finds every day for a month.)
I haven’t done many projects like this lately, focusing more on home projects and things going on in our day-to-day lives. But I have a closet full of “to-do” projects to complete, so this weekend, I decided to dive in.
First up, this dress. I bought it years ago, and I’ve worn it a bunch, but it hasn’t gotten much wear lately. I think it’s because of the puffed sleeves (there’s elastic in them) and the ruffles. I’m getting a little older (ahem), and the style of the dress seems a little too “cute” for me.
If I take away both of these elements, I think I’ll wear this dress much more.
I used my trusty seam ripper to remove the elastic from both sleeves and the front ruffles. This gave the dress the less “sweet”, more minimalist look I was hoping for.
Here’s the dress after the ruffles were removed – complete with loose threads and tiny holes left from the threads used to attach the ruffles. The easy solution for getting rid of these? Toss the garment in the washer and then the dryer. The holes will magically disappear.
The front of the dress is left with small, distressed lines from where the ruffles were. I like how this tiny detail looks. The sleeves look better with the elastic removed, too.
It’s the perfect dress for layering – here with a striped turtleneck. I paired it with leather ankle boots – and super pale winter legs!
I’m so happy to put this dress back into rotation. It’s an easy basic that works year-round.
One of my favorite things to do with thrifted (or just old) jeans is to cut them up to use for patches.
Last year, I did a tutorial on DIY distressed denim and how to use patches on the inside of the jeans to reinforce the holes. You can check out that tutorial here.
Today, I’m showing you how to add patches to the outside of your jeans. I was inspired by these images I found on Pinterest:
Here’s what I used for this project:
a pair of jeans to patch
another pair of jeans or denim scraps to make patches
needle and thread (I used white)
pins to hold patches in place
sewing machine (optional)
This is what the jeans looked like before – saggy knees that have lost some of the elasticity of the spandex threads that give the jeans stretch.
I wanted the patches to be different colors, so I cut one patch from a thrifted pair of jeans, and I cut the other patch from an old pair of jeans that I had already repaired. I thought the ripped and resewn part would add some fun texture.
Place the patches where you want them to be sewn.
Pin patches in place. Now you will begin to stitch the patches to the jeans. For the top and bottom of the patch, I used my machine, but I quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to do the left and right side stitches that way, so I used needle and thread to finish.
I used back stitching for this part. (Here’s a great illustration of how back stitch works.) Start with the needle and thread inside the leg of the jeans. Poke the needle through at least 1/4″ away from the side of the patch and about 1/2″ from the bottom. Pull thread through to the knot.
Insert needle about 1/4″ toward the bottom edge of patch and guide it to about 1/4″ past where the thread is sticking out.
Pull thread tight and insert needle at the end of the previous stitch.
Guide needle through the inside of the jeans and poke out about 1/4″ past where thread is sticking out. Repeat until you have a full line of stitches, stopping at about 1/4″ from the opposite edge of the patch. Tie off the thread on the inside of the jeans.
I made a little video (my first on the blog!) to show you what this looks like in action:
And there you have it, how to add patches to your jeans.
I had forgotten how much I love hand-stitching. I find it super relaxing. Maybe it takes me back to my childhood cross-stitching days, or maybe it just makes me slow down and focus only on what I’m doing. Either way, I think I need to find some things to embroider, or at least find some more things to patch. I’m sure BB and BG have some holey jeans that need fixing!
Those $1 Days are my favorite. Not only can I find great dresses and sweaters (with shoulder pads!) for super cheap, but it’s a great time to stock up on jeans.
“Stock up?” you might be asking. Good question. Over the years, I’ve made tons of things out of old jeans – some good, some not so good. (Check out “jean crafts” on Pinterest to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.)
Here are my top 5 things to do with thrift store jeans:
1.Wear them! Finding jeans that fit well can be hard. Thrifting jeans that fit well is even harder. But sometimes, the stars align, and you find a pair that fits just right, as is – perfect waist, perfect fit, perfect length. This was one of those pairs! I was looking for something above the ankle to wear with boots (or heels) that didn’t have any distressing. When you find a good fit, snatch those jeans up immediately, because when else will you find a just-right pair for less than $10?
2. Distress them. I did a post a year ago about how to distress your jeans. I used a newish pair from Target, but thrifted jeans are GREAT for this because they are usually already showing a little age AND you aren’t out much money if it doesn’t go well. Check out the full tutorial for how to distress jeans here.
3. Crop them. Sometimes the jeans fit pretty well, but they’re too long. Or they are boot cut and you’re looking for a narrower hem. Or you just want to try out the raw hem look. Grab a pair and take your scissors to them. Cut them exactly where you want them to hit or leave a few extra inches to cuff them. Leave the hem to fray. I love the look of “scruffy” raw hem jeans with a pretty, feminine blouse and equally pretty, feminine shoes. I just chopped these up two weeks ago, and I’ve already worn them 8 times – they’re my new favorites.
4. Patch them. Or use the thrifted jeans to make patches. These were my favorites. I found them at Target years ago, and they fit perfectly. (Sometimes Target jeans aren’t that great, but I’ve had more luck with them in recent years.) However, as happens with less expensive denim, the stretchy fibers started to wear out, so the knees got saggy. To give them new life, I used a pair of my old jeans and a pair of thrifted jeans to make patches. They add texture and character, and I can keep wearing these old favorites. (Tutorial for these patched jeans coming next week!)
5. Quilt them. I made this rag quilt MANY years ago (maybe 2003?) and even submitted it in a local county fair. (I got 3rd place!) I called it “Family Jeans” (get it?) because it was made with castoffs from our family – old denim shirt from Husband, pants from me, a dress from my mom, jeans from my brother, etc. I used a mix of pink calico fabrics for the backing and sewed all the pieces together, leaving the edges fray. (I don’t remember where I found the tutorial originally, but here’s one that’s pretty close.) We’ve used this quilt on our bed ever since.
I decided it’s time to make another one, but this go-round, I want to use only white denim. It’s a lot harder to find, so I’m hitting thrift stores more frequently in hopes of collecting enough to get started. (Those Everything’s $1 Days are perfect for this!)
I recently had a conversation with a woman I met while combing the aisles of Goodwill, and we chatted about the joys of thrifting. I told her about my quilt plans, she told me about making coasters. Then she said, “I’m pretty sure you could just buy white denim at Joann’s….”
(insert record scratch sound here)
(Oh, guess what! It’s 2018. I can ACTUALLY “insert record scratch sound here”!)
Yeah, okay, sure. I COULD do that. I could just BUY the fabric to make the denim quilt. But I love thrifting. I love the idea of making a quilt out of recycled fabric, I love the thrill of the hunt, and I love those rare vintage treasures you find when you’re not even looking for them.
So I’ll keep searching and collecting, and I’ll be sure to show you how it all turns out when I’m done!