Saturday, January 22, 2011

Use What You Have!

We have all heard our grandparents say things like "Waste not, want not!" And "Make do with what you have!" It seems that all the expressions from the Great Depression are making a comeback during our recession with people cutting costs and saving. For the first time in a long time frugal is the 'in' thing which suits me just fine! I remembered my grandmother telling stories about how she took apart her wedding suit to make a coat for my mother when she was little, about how a trip to the secondhand store snagged her an overstuffed chair for $1, which was recovered several times throughout her life. Growing up she volunteered at a thrift store and would often times bring things home with her at the end of her shift, passing them out to the members of the family that they best suited. When I was in high school I didn't want to wear it if it didn't come from the Gap or Express, so I often turned up my nose (in private of course, I wouldn't have dreamed of hurting her feelings!) at the thought of wearing something secondhand. Now, as an adult with three children and bills to pay, I frequent places like Goodwill and sites like Craig's List, and find a thrill in the hunt for bargains. Half of our house was furnished from Craig's List, and I am a die hard coupon clipper. By stacking those coupons, I almost never pay for toiletries anymore and often have to have the manager at our grocery sign off on my total because I've saved too much. A good portion of my kids' clothing comes from secondhand stores and hand-me-downs from amazing neighbors and friends, and I will drive my car until it dies a complete death and can go no further. I could go on, but I think you get the idea...I am a frugal person with a thrifty gene deeply embedded in my DNA. Why throw something out if it can be repurposed? So I started with two shirts in my closet and decided to see what I could do with them.

Project: Reusing old clothing for a new purpose
Skill Level: Depends on what you are reusing it for!
Time: Varies, this project was several hours

So here they are, two shirts that haven't been worn in a long time. Both started out as clearance purchases, the blue one was $6 on clearance at Kohl's and the floral was $8 at JC Penney. The floral one shrunk when I washed it and the elastic in the sleeves made a ring on my arm every time I wore it which was VERY uncomfortable...
...and the blue one got a hole in it. I might have been able to fix it, but it really wasn't my favorite shirt anyway.
One of my favorite pattern companies is Bit of Whimsy Dolls. I accidentally stumbled across her patterns on Etsy one day and tried one out. After that I was hooked and now own several patterns for various dolls and critters. Today I am making her Wittle Whimsy Charlie pattern. Two actually, one for each son for Valentine's Day! These are fantastic because they literally use scraps of fabric so it's a great way to use up what you have. I won't be going over all the directions, if you want to make one for yourself please use the link and purchase a pattern. The directions that Sarah has written are fantastic and easy to follow. I will however, give you a few tips that I have come up with for a few steps in her process. I will warn you though, her patterns are a little like Lay's Potato Chips, you can't get just one!

First I cut away the band on the bottom of the shirt to make the fabric easier to lay flat. Then I laid out my pattern pieces. I only cut out the bodies though, keep reading to see why.
The pattern calls for you to cut out the pieces for the ears, arms, and legs, and then stitch them together 1/8" from the raw edge. I find that it is easier to spray the pattern piece with re-positionable spray adhesive and stick it directly to the fabric instead.
Stick the pattern piece to a double layer of fabric, then pin the layers together to keep them from shifting.
Stitch right around the edge of the pattern piece, keeping as close to the pattern as possible.
When you are finished,
pull off the pattern,
and cut around your stitching. At this point you could turn it so the stitching is on the inside, but the pattern calls for the stitching to show and I really like that look so I'm leaving it as is.
Now with the arms and legs I didn't want them to be too large, so I cut the pattern down to the stitching line and then sewed around the edge. That way once I cut it out it ends up being the original size. Sew around all the arms and legs and then cut out.
Now, for embroidering I find that if the fabric is see through you can easily lay the fabric on the pattern and trace the facial features. If you are using a thicker fabric (like this flannel scrap that I grabbed out of my stash to coordinate with the striped shirt,) then hold it up to a window to see better. Use a water erasable marker to draw so you can get rid of any excess lines later.
The pattern directions call for you to make the entire doll or stuffed animal and then embroider the face when you are finished. Personally, I prefer to embroider before assembly for a few reasons. One, I find it easier to do in a hoop, and two, if I mess up I haven't ruined an entire project. It's just my personal preference though!
Ta-Da! Cute little face...
Now that everything is cut out, embroidered, and pre-assembled, move on and finish the dogs according to the pattern directions.
These little dogs have tags around their necks. I used an embroidery machine to make a letter for each dog so that my boys can tell them apart.
Next I used the adhesive spray and stuck the pattern piece over the letter.
Stitch two layers of felt together, make sure to insert a folded over piece of ribbon between the layers to make the collar.
Cut out the little tags, (but don't cut through your ribbon!) tie them around their necks, and you have a finished project! I can't wait to give my boys their own little dogs for Valentine's day, next I'll be making the coordinating Princess Kitty for my daughter. Then the Mermae, then...
(The doll at the top of this post is Bit of Whimsy's Mae doll, I made it with some of the blue shirt and some of the floral shirt for the skirt. She is being donated to a family in need.)

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