A bias halter top and refashioning a blouse

Huipil fever has somehow been getting to me, and I have been wondering how to make a scarf huipil with a simple square. Of course my scarf – Japanese, polyester, from the charity shop – could have been combined with a plain back in order to make a huipil. But then I realised it was the perfect size to make a bias halter top.

This is very simple to do. You fold the scarf in half, wrong sides together, to create a big triangle. About 5″/12.5cms  down from the point put in two rows of parallel stitching, about 1.5cms apart. Thread some braid or cotton tape, or a thin leather piece through here, long enough to tie at the back of your neck. To wear it tie the other two corners around your back waist and tie in a knot. This top is better without a bra, or perhaps over a bikini or sports bra. Or wear it under a cardigan or jacket. As you can see I have styled it with Gus’s lobster shorts and a pom pom head-dress! This Fridishness seems to taking over my life!

Before I briefly describe the refashion I want to share something else.

It is Borrow Box. You may have heard of it, or even use it, but I only just discovered it. This is a way to borrow audio books completely free, simply by joining your local library. There are plenty of good books available this way, and obviously you can listen to them easily while you sew or knit, or brush your teeth, do the ironing, yoga etc. I have taken to putting my phone in my pocket while I wander around the house, and I am very excited about it. I am also thinking it might be good for children as an alternative to reading.

To find out if the books are any good I still go to Amazon for reviews and information. I quite like the idea that while people look at books in shops and then buy on Amazon, now we can browse on Amazon then get the audio books for free from the library.

On with another cheapskate idea.

I sometimes pick up items from a sale rack at Topshop and other high street shops, regardless of size and without trying them on. This is a good example. I was attracted to the print – I liked the colours and the big red flowers –  and thought it was worth a £4 bet. If it didn’t look good I could use the fabric.

It didn’t look good.

Restyling project
Unflattering HM blouse

The neckline is horrible on me. Too high. The colour is too dark (it is a deep charcoal grey rather than black) near my face. The body is shapeless and overall the effect is deadening.

So what would you do (other than give it away)? I suspect it was on the final reductions rack as it is hard to decide who would suit this other than a dentist with a penchant for florals.

I ripped off the collar and sleeves, and very slightly straightened up the shoulder line.

By revealing much more skin the “too dark” rather overpowering look has gone. I looked through lots of trims – white, pink and various greens, and decided that a muted, faded green would give the lightness that I wanted. I used the last of my Liberty print bias binding handmade by my friend Linde Carr, to bind the neck, sleeves and hem. This provides a nice “frame” for the print.

refashioning a blouse to make a shell top
Refashioned blouse

I cut away some of the length as it was swamping me. And the piece I cut off from the back included some pink flower print. I cut this out and appliqued it on to the front to increase the pinkness of the item.

I have kept the sleeves which I like. Maybe they will turn up later on something else. We will see.

The only issue is the depth of the armholes. Once the sleeves were removed and, the armholes bound, I realised they would reveal my bra. I put a sleeveless T-shirt under it, but it is not an ideal solution. I guess this is what happens when you get a baggy top with rather full sleeves. When you draft a sleeveless top you usually bring the armhole up a centimetre of two – which is obviously not possible with a re-make.

But overall, I like it. Florals – and pom pom crowns – all the way…

I haven’t done many re-fashions. The last one was a SWAP requirement that wasn’t massively successful. The skirt was Indian and horrendously over-sewn with every panel and section very determinedly overlocked. Unpicking is such a bore when it is not even your own mistake, don’t you find.

I suppose if you find nice fabric, at a low-cost – in charity shops or on sale – refashioning might be a good way to go. And if you have something with sentimental meaning that might be good. Last month I met Shelagh (of @sewshelagh) who told me she made cushion covers with old silk ties from the charity shops. It’s a nice idea. Does it work for you?

16 Responses

  1. Elaine Sabin-Simpson

    Frida all the way! [Although I draw the line at pom poms [or porn porns as my brain insists on reading it]
    My Frida skirt is done, and will go nicely with [finally] my review of your book, as I used your ideas in making it. I am sort of refashioning today too- I’ve salvaged the embroidery from a gorgeous blouse that cost a bomb 11 years ago, and got worn very little before I out-bulged it. Sigh. It will go onto my version of the huipil. Probably.
    I love the idea of refashioning, but new fabric gladdens my heart so much…

  2. Fabrickated

    I know what you mean. I like using old stuff and hate the idea of landfill or incineration but new fabric is always seductive. Thanks for agreeing to review the book. That is so kind of you. I know your Frida outfit will be sensational with or without pomagraphic adornment.

  3. Julia

    I have done this for more years than I care to remember, starting when I went to church jumble sales as a young teenager, and there is something very satisfying indeed about transforming an unloved garment into one you can wear with pride – as you certainly can with yours. In a similar fashion to Shelagh’s cushions, I even made a skirt out of ties from the jumble sales in the 70’s!

    However, I have had unmitigated failures over the years which have ended up in the bin (which absolutely defeats the object!) and now feel my life is too short to spend hours unpicking, etc., so now stick to yardage unless something absolutely jumps out at me!

  4. Sue Stoney

    I am quite poor at refashioning unless there is a lot of fabric. I have made several tops from scarves though there’s not a huge challenge in that. I haven’t bought anything new to transform and find this quite a fascinating concept. What you did with your top made it totally wearable. I wonder if you could add a little armpit gusset to stop your bra showing? I did this once and it worked a treat.

    • fabrickated

      Thanks for the encouragement Sue. I always enjoy looking at what the refashioners make – usually the alterations are fairly dramatic and effective. But unpicking everything to create a fabric source is not for me. I even saw a video of people ripping back machine made jerseys as a yarn source. No. Life is too short for that.

  5. ceci

    I had accumulated a bag of extra large size linen gauze and linen thrift shop shirts thinking they might suit my dad (they didn’t…..) and they were way too big for anyone else I knew. This summer several of them have turned into huipil-like comfortable on hot days tops for me – some with mixed prints, some with added linen from my scrap bag. It uses a different skill set for me than regular from-a-pattern sewing and takes longer by far, but its been a good transition period sewing activity when I have not been motivated to do anything more complicated.

    Now I am in the hunting and gathering phase of a big project and its time to tidy up the sewing space – its nice that I will have fewer big linen thrift shop shirts to decide about.

    Re the low arm hole top, I put in some little semi-circles (gussets, I guess) with success in a similar instance. Thank you for satisfying my curiosity about this top glimpsed in an earlier post.


    • fabrickated

      I am so wary now of buying additional fabric – whatever the source. I have a lifetime’s supply, and lots of patterns, but generally I enjoy making simple, pattern free items, and being creative with what I have, just as you describe in your top making adventures. I look forward to hearing more about your big project.

  6. Lynn Mally

    I’m not taking part in “dress like Frieda” because my style is too plain for that look. However, I have discovered that the huipil shape is marvelous for making shirts out of narrow kimono fabric. Sew two pieces together for a front, two for a back and you are good to go! Thanks for the tip. I buy men’s sweaters to refashion all the time, and sometimes men’s shirts. It doesn’t always work, and then I worry that I have cut up a perfectly good shirt…

    • fabrickated

      Top Tip Lynn. I may have a look for some kimono fabric. And if you wear a kimono fabric huipil you will be doing the essence of Frida – expressing who you are in a subtle, individual and creative way. Bravo!

  7. Vancouver Barbara

    Your scarf halter top worked a treat, especially styled with lobster shorts and pom poms. I also like Elaine’s porn porns. That’s a laff.
    Love what you did with the dark and vivid print blouse. Little modesty moons (half-moons or gibbous moons) in the underarms might save the day if you have some scraps left over. Don’t cut into the sleeves for this – I’m dying to see what you do with those.

    • fabrickated

      The sleeves? Yes I am thinking about them, from time to time. I frankly can’t be bothered about modesty. Either I will wear a navy bra or a sleeveless T. I like the general effect and it was just a quick project to pounce on the fabric.

  8. Su

    The Topshop blouse looks much better without the neckband. Those type of neckbands are not an easy or most flattering look unless, perhaps you have along neck.

  9. Annieloveslinen

    Your refashion looks good but as you had plenty of length you could’ve aligned the bottom of a pattern with the hem of The front/sleeves and cut new pieces. I’ve done that with oversized sweaters, sometimes only needing to recut the sleeve and slim the body leaving the neck as is, it doesn’t work for everything but you can remake some good bargains if you bear this technique in mind.

    • fabrickated

      Thanks very much Annie. What a sensible suggestion – I wish I had thought of that. I will give it a go when I next find a suitable large top with fabric that appeals.

  10. Kim

    I’ve been using my local library for as long as I can remember and was delighted to discover the e-book and audio book facility. I love it – and it’s even better that it free!

    • fabrickated

      To be honest I have not really been to a local library for ages. I just found the book selection a little “Meh” if you know what I mean, and always felt anxious about not getting them back in time and having to pay fines. I loved Amazon for being able to send me second hand books at low prices, or best sellers or the latest thing to my Kindle. I also frequent charity shops where good books are usually a pound or two. But this down load business is marvellous, so long as it works. It was off line yesterday so I was a bit cross….

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