Exploring The Brave New World of Bare Midriffs

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Greetings, Refashioners! I’m back with another monstrosity-turned-masterpiece for your viewing pleasure.

I bought this Cambridge-blue (Tiffany-blue?) polyester/viscose top in the Scope shop in Lewisham, a while back when they were having a sale. It was £2.00 (reduced from £3.95). Score!

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Like the magpie I am, I had totally fallen for the silver-coloured beading on the front yoke. Delightful!

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The top is a little big, and the effect of the overall shape was a bit third-trimester, but it had a lot going for it.

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I wanted to separate the bottom ruffled layers from the rest of the top and see how the shape looked, so I carefully unpicked the seam holding the layers together. Unfortunately, the seam allowances of both layers were overlocked together which meant a lot of hours with my best friend Mr. Seam Ripper… normally I would just cut this off, but I wanted to preserve every millimetre of length in the hope that the top layer would be long enough on its own.

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After rather a lot of work, the whole thing had come off.

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I unpicked a few stitches from the side seams to remove the ties, and stitched the sides back up again.

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I decided at this point that I would try to make this into a crop-top style, hemming the top layer where it fell. Here’s what I started with:

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I pressed under the smallest amount I could manage without burning my fingers – about 5mm.

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After running a row of stitches around the whole hem, I carefully trimmed away the excess to within about 1-2mm.

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I then turned under the hem again and stitched it on top of the other line of stitching to make a narrow machine-rolled hem.

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Here’s how it looks from the outside.

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And the inside:

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Next step was to cut the lining to the correct length. I chose to cut this at the same length as the shell layer as the shell is transparent and I didn’t want to show too much skin.

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I just turned the lining under twice and stitched it closed to hem it.

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The two hems looked neat enough!

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The final step was to fix a few pulled threads on the shoulder area. Here’s a quick example of how I n0rmally do this.

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First, identify your pulled thread.

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Next, take a fine needle and push it into the material at the base of the pulled thread.

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Then, carefully thread the pulled thread loop through the eye of the needle.

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Gently push the needle through the material…

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…and pull it through, either to the wrong side, or further down the piece.

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The pulled thread should be left on the wrong side of the fabric and be invisible.

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Here’s me modelling my new crop top. It’s perhaps a little short for comfort, but sometimes it’s good to be out of the comfort zone. Possibly a little annoying is that the centre front hem seems to dip a bit, probably because the shoulders are too wide; it’s not as obvious when I’m wearing it as it is in these pictures.

Although I’m easing myself into the world of crop tops, I felt comfortable in the blouse and will definitely wear it again. Would you ever bare your midriff?

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Announcement: Repurpose, Reuse, Refashion!

You might have seen that Amy at Sew Amy Sew is hosting a refashion competition this month – there are all sorts of patterns to be won, including one of mine and several from other well-established indies. All you have to do to enter is refashion something and post before and after pictures of your project in the Repurpose, Reuse, Refashion flickr group. You can read all about the competition here. You can start with either a charity shop/thrift store/op shop piece, or something from your UFO pile, or something you already have in your family’s wardrobe and you have until the end of the month to enter.

I have also guest posted for Amy here and here, with some of my refashioning tips and to hopefully give you some inspiration for your entries. I hope you’ll consider entering the competition; I want more people to try refashioning and find out how liberating it is to work without a pattern and make it up as you go along. Personally I feel like it’s a very creative art-form; no instructions, no right answer. It can also be a great entry point to sewing as you can start with small changes and work your way up to full garments. I started refashioning as an easy way to make clothes I wanted to wear while keeping the hard-to-sew parts, like zips and buttonholes, from the original garment.

Of course, there is also a button you can use on your blogs, designed by the talented Carmen Hui:

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Thanks Amy for organising such an inspirational sewing contest – I hope it inspires you all to start refashioning! I am the judge of the competition and I can’t wait to see what everyone makes!

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45 comments

  1. dannyscotland

    You look adorable, however my midriff will never again see the light of day. I’ve had two children and it shows. :-) I’m okay with it though. My two kids look cuter than I ever did with their little tummies showing!

  2. fionaparker17

    Cute Sally! I think the voluminous fit (that’s not exactly the word I was searching for but you get what I mean!) makes the cropped style much more wearable and it looks great with jeans. Gorgeous baby hem!

    • charityshopchic

      Thanks Fiona! The looser fit is certainly easier to wear than the bra-type I’m seeing on eg Rihanna. You just get a little hint of skin when you move around.

  3. Anige

    I am very impressed with the work you did with your hem, amazing work. I would have run it through my overlock turned it and gotten some ice cream. Which is why I won’t be rocking the crop top/belly shirt. I do not have a belly I feel comfortable showing off. But you made a piece that was so so clearly wear able and maybe even have enough left over for a cute little skirt. Great job.

    • charityshopchic

      Thank you! The hem worked out well, I was happy with it. Yes, I know the bare midriff is not for everyone… you could make a longer crop top that comes far down enough to meet the waist of your high-waist jeans if you didn’t want to show off your skin. :)

  4. Helen

    This is a gorgeous remake, I really like the beading and colour too. It looks like a completely different top from the first picture, so good!

  5. puggo

    Hi there. As usual, you have taken an old fashion and remade it into a new hot item. And you will be a great judge for the sewing competition.

  6. Fadanista

    The cropped top looks gorgeous on you, but my days of wearing them are well and truly over I think – I have two words “age appropriate”! I rather like the dip in the front of your top and I love how your shoes go so well with the beading. Enjoy showing your middle whilst you can and watch all the older ladies look at you wistfully as they remember their own youth.

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Sue, I know this look is not for everyone! You could try a longer cropped shape which meets the waistband of a high-waisted skirt or trousers to minimise any bare skin… Glad you like the shoes too, they were a gift from my mum! :-)

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Linda, I’m a total magpie when it comes to shiny fabrics and embellishments. Yes, I know this look is not for everyone, but with a different style of blouse I probably would have left it a bit longer so it just about met my jeans waistband.

  7. Jenny

    Good job here. It looks totally chic! When you are trying to thread tiny little ends you could use a “cheater” needle, also known as a self-threading needle. The top do the needle has a little slit so you can slide the thread into it. Much easier for short bits. I mostly use mine for burying threads in quilting.

  8. Alexa

    Wow, this looks great on you. I love what you’ve done with this top, I’m in awe as ever. I’m definitely not brave enough to bare my super pale stomach, except maybe on a beach but I am going to join in with the repurpose, reuse, refashion challenge.

  9. Juliet

    Too cute! I especially like the way you hide pulled threads, I’ve always scratched my head over that but won’t any more! And would I bare my midriff? … maybe once the winter pounds are gone, andonly in the height of summer!

  10. Claire

    I would never have touched that hideous top thing you started with! However, you’ve turned it into a delightful and wearable blouse, which suits you well. As for me and crops, sorry, but I’m less than 18 months from the big 50, my midriff will never see the light of day in public again! I am off to get a self threading needle though, thanks to commenter Jenny, sounds handy ;)

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Claire, thanks for commenting. I agree that this look might not be for everyone! I want some of those special needles too, I’ll have to look out for some.

  11. aniger

    Thank you for the great tutorial on how to make a rolled hem without the special foot for the machine. Reading this was like *slap_my_forehead* and “aaaah, how obvious!” =)
    I enjoy your clean and skilled working style. How did you learn so much about drafting, knowing where to put darts and all the other handy tricks?

    • charityshopchic

      Hello and thanks for commenting! I actually don’t have a rolled hem foot for my machine, so I’ve always done it this way :) Glad you found it useful.
      I learn a lot from reading other sewing blogs, there is a lot of information out there, but the most important thing is practice, practice, practice!

      • Jenny

        I have used this method for ever even though I do have the rolled hem foot. It is very easy to cut through the fabric at the back by mistake because you are cutting so close to the first line of stitching, but if you use applique scissors this will make it much easier. It has a paddle-shaped blade that keeps the lower fabric out of harm’s way.

  12. Marina

    Hi Sally I’ve really enjoyed looking through your older posts and seeing the transformations you’ve made to the clothes! I am a beginner at charity shopping and I can’t see to save my life but am very keen on learning and will buy a machine soon. I wanted to ask you if you have any tips on how to see potential in charity shop clothes? I can’t seem to see past them in order to imagine what I could transform them into! I guess it’s because I’ve never transformed any piece of clothing before and I guess a lack of creativity! But how do you buy a piece of clothing already imagining what you could do with it? I’ve seen girls on youtube saying ‘if you like the print then buy it and figure something out at home’ is that how you go about it? I would love to hear any tips you have on seeing potential in thrifted clothes!

    Thanks marina

    • charityshopchic

      Hi Marina, thanks for commenting, so glad to hear that you’re enjoying reading about my adventures. Personally I think refashioning can be a great way to get into sewing – start by cutting a dress in half to make a skirt and top, trousers into shorts, that sort of thing. You’ll soon be able to take on more complicated projects.
      As for seeing potential, that is such a personal thing. I tend to look for unusual fabrics, especially shiny ones, and unusual shapes that I can work with. I do also go into shops with ideas for basic garment types, eg I have a jacket coming up, so I’d be looking for something specific in that case. Overall I just love a good rummage and wait for something to catch my imagination. And the bigger it is, the better! Hope that helps!

  13. Toots Totes

    HI there, I’ve only recently discovered your blog and am totally hooked. So much so that I’ve read every single blog in the archive!! I’ve been upcycling woolly jumpers into bags for a while, but am now inspired to think again about the clothes I send to the Charity Shop and will definitely look at them again to make sure I can’t refashion them to make something more wearable! Thank you so much for your attention to detail and sheer genius! It’s fascinating…

    • charityshopchic

      Hello! Glad to hear you’re enjoying reading! Jumpers into bags sounds like a fun project. I have actually never made a bag before but maybe I should consider it!

  14. Joanne

    What an amazing transformation! Love the top! :)

    I have recently co-founded an ethical fashion label with a focus on the fair treatment & building of positive relationships with the people who make our clothes. Check it out here: http://www.jacobandesau.co

    Would love to collaborate with you, feel free to drop me a message to chat further! xo

  15. artbeatphoto

    I know this was done a while ago, but I just discovered your blog and am going through all the goodness. :)
    You so could make a skirt from the remaining fabric from this! The shirt came out fab and OH the possibilities with the remaining fabric.
    Keep up the great job… loving the inspiration. <3

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