Monday, September 23, 2013

#2: Salme Challenge - From Dress to Duster

Welcome to Challenge #2 in the FabricMart Fabricista Fashion Challenge!

Challenge #1 was so much fun! Challenge #2 was a bit more... challenging, at least for me! Here are the rules:

Using the pattern that we have selected for you, create a unique garment that reflects your personality. You can alter the pattern or add to the patterns to make it more you. Think of one or two words that describe you to inspire your look. You will be judged on creativity, craftsmanship, fit, how well represented your description words are in your design, and difficulty.
The Pattern: The Salme Yoke Dress.

This is a long post, so let me start with a summary. The words I chose for this challenge were ARTSY CASUAL. I converted the pattern from a dress to a sleeveless duster, which is something I can wear every day but still has the artsy vibe that I like. I made the denim lace (which I call 'thread lace') featured on the duster. I also made the earrings.


  • Pattern Alterations and Modifications
  • Materials Used
  • Thread Lace
  • Earrings
  • More Pictures

Pattern Alterations and Modifications

While it might seem like I used a completely different pattern, the changes I made were fewer than you might think. I first purchased the pattern, printed it, cut off two edges from each piece of paper, and taped them together in a grid. I then traced off the largest size, a size 16, which is my size based on my upper bust - before an FBA. I traced off everything except for the skirt, which I did not use.

I traced the front as a single pattern piece and the same with the back. It's much easier to do an FBA that way, as well as other alterations. Once I completed the alterations, and had traced off the armhole and neckline shape for the facings, I then separated the front and back yokes from the front and back pattern pieces.

Separating the yoke after all alterations.

The fact that this pattern does not include seam allowances made all of these alterations much easier. I actually like working this way. I have sewed long enough that I eyeball the 5/8" seam allowance when I do the cutting and it comes out accurately.

After I traced the pattern, I noticed an error. The front and back shoulders had different slopes.

In the picture above, you can see that the front and back shoulder lines have a different slope. I adjusted them so they would be the same, favoring the slope that most closely matched my actual shoulder.

Here are the other alterations I made:

  • I did a 2" FBA.
  • I lengthened the front and back bodice to make them knee length. I omitted the waistline darts.
  • I feel that a sweetheart neckline is incongruous on an older, busty silhouette like mine. (As Margy said, "I am nobody's sweetheart!") I straightened the line on the front so that the front yoke had a shape similar to the back yoke.
    The dotted line shows the original sweetheart yoke shape. The bold line is the new yoke shape.
  • I split the front to make it a front-opening duster, held closed by a button tab. I also reshaped the neckline slightly to have more of a v-shape.
  • I split the back to make a button closure. This was to break up the expanse of denim on the back.
  • I drafted facings for the front/back neck and for the armholes.
  • When sewing up the side seams, I left side slits that were approximately 10" long.
  • I drafted patch pockets. I copied the curve of the yoke, which curves down at the outside edge, and echoed the shape at the top of the patch pockets. The patch pockets are self lined.

I did not make a muslin. I tested the fit in paper.

I did not look at the instructions for the dress and made up my own. I finished all inside seams. I lined the yoke. I turned the raw edges under on the side seams and sewed them down by hand. I used bias binding on the hem and the other exposed seams.

Inside finishing.

Materials Used

  • Tencel denim. I had 3 yards and it was just enough - I had only small bits left over.
  • I lined the yoke using blue Vera Wang pebbled silk from FabricMart. It was leftover from my Sandra Betzina jacket.
  • Vintage German plastic buttons from Britex in two sizes. One large one for the front tab and 5 smaller ones for the back.
    (I brought a chunk of the denim and the denim lace yoke with me to Britex to purchase the buttons. I was at the button counter, receiving some excellent help, when the owner of Britex, Sharman, saw the denim lace yoke on the counter and came up to study it more closely. She really liked it, and it was fun to chat about the process I used to make it.)
  • One sew-on snap, size 10. This is what actually holds the front tab closed. (To avoid a giant buttonhole.)
  • Denim threads left over from the Denim Rag Rug I made last year.
  • These vintage buttons have huge buttonholes. I sewed them on using Finca No 8 thread in navy, which is similar to pearl cotton. (I bought it at Britex.)
  • ProWoven Shirt Crisp interfacing from Pam Erny at Fashion Sewing Supply. I love this stuff and need to order more! I interfaced the front and back facings, the armhole facings, the front button tab, and the back button band.

Thread Lace

One year ago, when I decided to make a denim rag rug, I started collecting jeans from my friends and their husbands. I ended up with quite a few pairs of jeans in various shades of blue, grey, and black. I started ripping the jeans into narrow strips for the rug. This generated a lot of denim threads. As I sewed the strips to the base fabric, I raveled the edges. This generated a lot more denim threads.

I was throwing the threads away into a plastic bucket that I keep in my sewing room, along with other detrius such as bent pins and broken needles. As the bucket started to fill up, it bothered me to throw away the jumble of pretty threads. I finally scooped the entire bucket of threads into a gallon ziplock baggy. I just *had* to use these for something, but I didn't know what.

I even took the bag of threads to Design Outside the Lines, thinking I might get some inspiration.

Last April, my friend JillyBe took a workshop called "Wabi Sabi Scarves" from Brecia Kralovic-Logan at PenWAG. I was lucky to see JillyBe's wonderful scarves in person, but she did blog about the workshop.

Inspired Jillian's work, last April I ordered some Water Soluble Bags (Melt-A-Way bags) from Mountainside Medical Equipment. I paid $16.95 (plus shipping) for a box of 25 bags, which is much cheaper than an equivalent amount of Solvy!

The bags arrived and I didn't even open the box, but shoved it into a corner. Until this week.

Testing how hot the water needs to be to melt the bags. Hot tap water is hot enough.

The technique Jillian learned in the workshop involved dyeing silk strips, weaving them, and stitching them together in straight rows, sandwiched in the dissolvable bags. I decided to go a different route. (In fact, based on Tanya's first project, it sounds like a recent issue of Threads shows this technique, but I haven't read the article as I don't subscribe to Threads Magazine and am not a Threads Insider.)

I traced off the front and back yokes, creating a single pattern piece, with no shoulder seam. I wanted to avoid bulk as much as possible. I cut the seams off of one of the melt-away bags creating two layers of plastic. I laid down the tracing, put one piece of plastic on top, and then started distributing the denim threads. It felt like sprinkling cheese on top of pizza, back when I used to do such a thing. :)

The second piece of plastic is laid on top, creating a sandwich.

The whole shebang is pinned thoroughly.

I dropped the feed dogs on my sewing machine and stipple quilted the layers, which is a type of free form embroidery. (During my early motherhood years, I took up quilting. In fact, when I was 11 my mother signed me up for a machine embroidery class at the Stretch and Sew store in Santa Rosa where I grew up, so this technique goes waaaaay back to the 1970s, but I hadn't used it since the 90s.)

I had major problems with the stippling. The thread kept fraying and, a couple times, the needle broke or bent. The thread would often fray after I'd sewn just a few inches.

This happened over and over and over.

I switched from my classic Bernina 930 to my Janome Gem. The problem continued to happen, over and over and over. It was driving me batty.

I asked my friends for advice. They told me that I should change the type of thread and maybe the needle. I was using Guterman thread, which I thought was good quality. I eventually changed to Metrosene, which worked MUCH better. (I was already using a large-sized Microtex needle.) Both Metrosene and Mettler threads are more slick than the Guterman and are better for this sort of work, as they are less likely to fray through the eye of the needle. Now I know. (And thanks to Heather, Sue, Margy, and Luanne for advising me!)

Eventually I got the quilting finished.

I then dunked the piece in hot water, dissolved the plastic, and laid it out to dry overnight.

Thanks to the quilting and the hot water bath, the yoke had shrunk and was now far too small.

I had to start over, this time making a much larger piece, which took much longer to quilt. I hadn't yet switched to different thread, so it broke many more times.

Pinned and ready to quilt

Partly quilted
Washed and drying

Back yoke

Front yoke

But it was ok, as I used the too-small yoke on the pockets.

Lace pinned.
Pockets completed.


This is the same technique I used to make the beads for the necklace I made last week. Except this time I used a 1" strip from the tencel denim selvedge and raveled the non-selvedge edge to make a fringe. I made two balls and turned them into earrings.

More Pictures

Trying to twirl, but tripping.
The End

P.S. I am also linking up to Visible Monday! Thanks, Patti!


  1. You are up early. Very creative and cool!

  2. Fantastic! Really smart re-fashion! I was so curious how you'd re-do this pattern. I'm quite impressed :)

  3. This interpretation of the pattern is truly a reflection of your personal style. Fantastic job and so creative. I am very impressed also.

  4. What a wonderful solution to a difficult (IMHO) challenge! This has your style written all over it. Love the denim lace! Love the vintage buttons! Love your tripping twirl! Congratulations on another impressive win!

  5. Wow, as usual. I never would have made it through the fraying and breaking thread. :-)

  6. I am in awe -- you have transformed something not "you" into something totally Shams -- fantastic!

  7. Wow, wow, wow! You are totally amazing. I am so impressed with your creativity and self expression. Your duster will surely be the winner. Can't wait to see what you come up with next week.

  8. This is perfectly YOU! At first, I thought, how could that be the same pattern?? Then you explained. What a transformation! G R E A T!

  9. As someone who really doesn't like that pattern, I was wondering how on earth you would make it into something wonderful. I knew you could do it, but WOW, this is fantastic. I love everything about it, but I really really love the denim lace.

  10. Çok şık olmuş. Siz zayıfladınız mı? Bu kıyafet mi çok zayıf gösteriyor? Çok klas.

  11. Fun, fun, fun. What all do I love? The interesting yoke and pocket treatment, the buttons and those rockin' earrings!!!

  12. Well, Shams, I had some doubts about how you could transform this pattern but you certainly made it work and produced a fantastic wearable garment. You are now the Queen of Pattern Transformation!


  13. I've read this post through twice and I'm sitting here with my jaw on the desk because this is so dayum beautiful and you've invested so much of yourself into this amazing piece. How many hours did you put into this? And I truly hope that you win this challenge because this is just awesome!!!

    1. Thanks so much, Carolyn! I am pretty much only working and sewing lately. I had to miss some really fun activities this weekend, but that's what I need to do to make the vision happen. ;)

  14. Fantastic, shams!! It's absolutely you and what a ebautiful rendition of Salme! Is there a place where we can vote?

    1. Thanks, KC! Voting starts tomorrow and I'll post a link.

  15. Wow! First off, I love that you converted the pattern to a duster. So great! What really blew me away though was that technique. It looks amazing on the denim!

  16. I really couldn't see you in that dress as the pattern stood but WOW! That adaption is really you - your personality shines in it! I am in awe of the thread lace. I really need to put some time aside just to 'play' with my machines and this goes to the top of the list. I will be voting tomorrow :)

  17. what a great adaptation and I like anything and everything in denim, so cool.

  18. Wow! You make this pattern sing!! I want one of these! Love that handmade lace, and so enjoyed reading about your process! And love the buttons down the back!! You have my vote (again).

  19. That is freaking awesome! Love it.

  20. Lovely!! You have nailed this with your take on the style lines, the additions, the color. It is perfect for you shams.

  21. Wonderful! I love the embellishment. Thanks for sharing with Visible Monday.

  22. GENIUS! Who would have thought that dress pattern could have been transformed into a thing of beauty! WOW, WOW, WOW....brilliant use of scrap denim.

  23. That looks so, so cool and so, so you! I almost cried as I was reading the post when I got to the point where you melt away the solvy to reveal the the piece is too small and you have to start over! I'm glad you stuck with it. It looks like a great layering piece for San Francisco.

  24. The denim lace is beautiful.
    I'm amazed at the transformation from (very) youthful dress to artsy duster.

  25. I adore the denim lace and the whole garment! I like how you adapted the pattern so it will fit with your wardrobe/style (that dress, while lovely, is not everyone's style). The buttons are a wonderful touch. Great job!

    Rose in SV

  26. Well, I also had no idea how you would make that pattern into something that suited you and that you would actually wear, but I was completely certain that you would. My favorite part is the buttoning back. Great, great detail. I voted for you last week, and was shocked when yours wasn't the winning entry!!

  27. Wow, an amazing transformation! Interesting idea about the medical bags. I have the Threads mag with the article about making 'lace' with scraps which I thought really neat. The tips about thread will help a lot when I get around to trying this.

  28. I am so impressed at how you transformed a design so at odds with your personal style to one that suits you so completely. The various design details that you add only make it more delightful, and your finishing work is superb. I really appreciate your informative photos and commentary on the thread lace, (makes me want to experiment with that some time) and I love that you are including coordinating jewelry!

  29. This is soooooo fabulous! Love the project, and the photography! A+!

  30. I'm with Claudine, crying over the too-small yoke in your beautiful denim lace. Thank goodness you were able to fix it.

    Regarding the shoulder slope - I am not sure this is an error as this is the adjustment for a forward shoulder (square the back, slope the front) -- perhaps the designer is fitting the computer generation.

    Well done, a great garment out of a super-not-you pattern.

  31. Geeze you're clever!! What a wonderful artsy garment. Just perfect. (and thankfully, doesn't look at all like the original pattern). Knew you would do a great job making it you.

  32. I never would have thought that that dress could be a duster! Amazing and unique!

  33. That is so gorgeous and creative. You deserve to win.

    BTW, I posted a step-by-step tutorial on how to make "lace" with scraps of fabric/thread and whatever in 2007, when Iris was so little.

    The medical bags are so much cheaper than Solvy. Who knew that medical supplies could be .cheaper. than something else?

  34. Two words: Persistent Genius. the best kind of genius ;)

  35. What an improvement on the original pattern! The denim lace was genius, too!

  36. Astounding transformation from frou-frou-yawn to freewheeling coolness! I love it and agree with all previous commenters. You are amazing. You must win. (And those boots with the slim black pants are incredible!)

  37. That is amazing garment, it suits your perfectly.

  38. WOW! You really have excelled at this challenge and exceeded all expectations to make this pattern fit your style and personality. It is TDF and the denim thread lace yoke and pockets pure genius. You look amazing in your fabulous new tripping twirling duster! Go shams!!!

  39. Love the thread lace!!!! Great interpretation of the dress. I agree, that dress is a little twee for women above 22.

  40. Your denim lace may very well be the coolest technique I've ever seen! Brilliant, and thanks for sharing in depth as to how you made it. I love your duster...makes me think of a painter's smock in the classiest way. And the buttons!!! Sometimes, I swear I could construct a garment using buttons as the starting point.

  41. This is an amazing pattern transformation. And that denim lace is incredible! Your creativity is inspiring.

  42. Shams,
    Your creation is absolutely amazing!!! You are so.... talented! Good luck.

  43. Just spectacular .. from start to finish. I, too, see that as
    a young-ish, cocktail-ish dress.. the choice really surprised
    me and I was curious how you'd create your look. But you
    did truly conquer this challenge (too) to a faretheewell.

    Love the thread scribble lace, and I also have BAGS of thread,
    scraps, serger chains, etc. for Embellisher use and water soluble
    stabilizer sandwich accents, airy scarves, framed textile art .. for
    SOMEday .. LOL .. maybe this Christmas.

    Really clever interpretation you'll wear as a stylish
    wardrobe layer often .. kudos!


  44. I am mesmerized by your talent and creativity! What an exciting way to start the day...inspired by you!

  45. Gosh, I love this! What a wonderful adaptation of the dress pattern into something that just completely suits you. I love the denim lace.

  46. Interesting fabric making technique. Does it wash well?

  47. I love your garments, sew creative and sew my style. Way to go!

  48. Looks great!!
    I hope your creation makes the contest people think twice about the patterns they pick... They should be suitable for all ages & sizes to make it fair.

  49. This is super cute -- and what a great adaptation of the dress pattern. The denim lace is too cool!

  50. What an amazing result!!! I bow to your vision & what you were able to create from that pattern - fantastic creation from earlobes to hemline!

  51. I would be amazed at how you transformed that unpromising pattern into a beautiful, unique and totally you garment, except you achieve similar results every time you sit down to sew. Great job!

  52. I wouldn't pay two cents for the pattern in the envelope, but I'd buy yours in a second. The duster is fantastic. How do you think up these things?

  53. Ohmigosh what a fun, innovative project. Extra kudos for recycling the jeans threads. And for re-doing the yoke. (Does your healthy eating plan allow for alcohol, I wondered, as I read about that! Me, I'd be glugging the gin into that smoothie blender after discovering the too-small yoke :) ) I love the way you restyled the dress to suit your lifestyle and taste. A kabillion congrats!

  54. You have certainly made this yours! The lace is a stunning and unique counterpoint to the denim. BTW You look fabulous!

  55. You made such a clever and creative garment. When I saw the pattern you had been given to work with I just knew you would come up with something spectacular that fit with your personality. How perfect with the denim lace! I admire your indomitable spirit.

  56. You are so owning this look - sewing/creating is definitely your forte!

  57. Your creativity blows me away. Who would have ever thought of using threads to make a fabric for a garment. And the time it took, wow. Talk about perseverance. That paired with the alteration of the pattern to make it your own makes it even more special. My words for this garment is creative and beautiful!

  58. WOW!!! This is totally and awesomely the coolest thing! You are such an inspiration to us all. Thanks for sharing your never-ending creativity!

  59. OK, you've just proved it - you just have toooo much time on your hands!
    Fabulous creative make - bravo

  60. This is it- this is why we sew- the personalization, the creative outlet- the fabulousness! You inspire.

  61. WOW! What a great duster. I learned something here. That technique for making thread lace is just calling out to me. Not sure when I'll be giving it a try, but you can bet it won't be long before I'm sampling that one in my own sewing room. Thanks for the inspiration.

  62. Incredible exciting and a fantastic result AND it looked really good on you...... so much fun to read your sewing adventures thanks for posting.

  63. I love about seeing past the picture to the fantastic! Found your blog via the Craftsy blog vote going on. You have mine for clothes sewing!