AUGUST 2021 :: Shoe Upcycle

This is the eighth blog post in my 2021 Sewing (+Upcycle) blog series. Click here to see the video where I share my inspiration for each month. My August project was to upcycle a pair of shoes.

I was excited for this project because it was a departure from months of sewing and working with textiles. Like all my projects, I underestimated how hard it would actually be. The difficulty had less to do with skill or lack there-of and more to do with making decisions, pushing through fears, and simply forcing myself to finish the project.

Below are images from my Upcycle Shoes Pinterest board. As you can see, I was mostly thinking that I would buy a pair of secondhand shoes and either paint them or glue items to the surface. I’ve included images of heels in this collage simply as inspiration. I actually can’t wear high heels because I broke my right foot when I was a teenager in a bicycle accident. I need to wear shoes that support my arch. Anywho…

As I have done for previous months, I shared my progress in my Instagram stories. Below are glimpses of those stories. View them all in the pinned AUG story highlight.

If you watch my stories, you will see that I had a real tough time settling on a pair of shoes to work on. After many shopping trips I had to force myself to make a choice. I was just about to make a boring choice when I stumbled upon these rubber cowboy boots (below) with the weird horse pattern. I don’t love the cowboy boot aesthetic. It is a classic but it is a classic that I am not really drawn too — BUT I’d much rather wear something weird than something boring and safe.

I knew I wanted to cut the boots because they were too tight around my calves. I asked my friends on Instagram for advice. The winning answer was mule. The second most popular choice was ankle boots, and in last place was the pump. The mule shape is cool, for sure, but it’s almost too cool for me. The ankle boot is cute but it is also a safe choice and I already have ankle boots. I feel like I asked the question but I already knew what I wanted to do — I wanted to make weird rubber pumps.

Another thing that was on my mind while I was working on this project was the concept of true risk-taking. I recently watched season 2 of Making The Cut. One of the designers really stood out to me (Gary Graham) because he really pushed himself to take risks. He was visibly struggling and unsure about some of the decisions he made. [ Watch S02 Episode 6!] Watching Gary Graham caused to me reflect on how much I admire people who take risks. With that in mind, I knew I had to try to cut the boots into something I had never seen before — rubber pumps!

What followed was weeks of me avoiding actually cutting the boots. I was so afraid I’d screw it up! Why? What’s the big deal? In the end I did what I thought I should have done weeks prior. And I’m actually pleasantly surprised with the results. To me, they are weird in a good way. See the results in the video below.

For those of you asking about technique — I cut the rubber with children’s craft scissors. They allowed me to make the cleanest cut and made it easier to maneuver turns. I covered the horse pattern with a Bold Point Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Marker. I’m tempted to add more to these boots, like maybe black glitter paint but I need to stop with this project for now and move forward.

What I learned on this project:

I’m circling the same lessons with each month’s project. The lessons I’m learning are all about the process of making and about learning to trust oneself. The overarching lesson for this project was obviously risk-taking. From the outside, risk-taking can appear fun like an exciting breakthrough but for me it felt really uncomfortable. There was a lot of self-doubt. Maybe with time I will learn to really trust myself and cut down on the time I linger in avoidance.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I’m skipping my September project for several reasons: my August project took too long, I’ve been busy helping my sons get settled at college, I’m trying to be good about taking time to rest, and…. I’m no longer in love with the idea I had for September which was a big flouncy tiered tulle dress.

It might sound weird given everything I’ve said above but I’m genuinely looking forward to my October project. Maybe that is also part of the process of making 🤷 — being excited about a project until you are actually in it. 😜



JULY 2021 :: Tie Dye

This is the seventh blog post in my 2021 Sewing Plans blog series. Click here to see the video where I share my inspiration for each month. My July project was to dye secondhand clothing.

I go through waves of being obsessed with tie dying. It’s a great way to upcycle clothing, especially if an item has a stain or if it’s just something that could be improved with some color.

The images below are taken from my Dye Job Pinterest board. As you can see, I’m mostly drawn to blues and muted pastels. I love bold colors but I’m less likely to wear them in my daily life.

I purchased a large vintage nightshirt from Tom Cat Bazaar on Etsy. I don’t remember what I paid for it but I remember it was very reasonable. I imagined that if I dyed it — it might make a nice market dress.

I decided to use blue-gray dye and a simple scrunch technique. I like how it turned out! What do you think?

I think if I pair it with leather sandals, an oversized straw bag, and a low bun it would make a nice beach coverup or a comfy dress to wear to the farmer’s market. The cotton is a little stiffer than I would like so I’m going to treat it with salt or vinegar to make it softer. This is what I found with a Google search:

“Create a mix of water and salt, or water and vinegar in a large plastic bucket. For one quart of water, you will need ½ cup of salt or vinegar. The salt and vinegar both help to open up the fibers of the shirts, and the mixture will add volume to the cotton, making it feel fluffy and soft” –

What I learned on this project:

Creative work is work. It takes time. It takes space. It can take lots of tools and prep work. It sometimes gives you a bad back. This project was pretty simple but I did avoid it for weeks because of the work involved. I love creative work but it’s good to be reminded that it is work. It can make you feel amazing when things go right but it doesn’t mean that it’s not work like other work. Think of that the next time you buy something from a local maker.

I’m so excited about my August Project — SHOES!!!


JUNE 2021 :: Kaftan

This is the sixth blog post in my 2021 Sewing Plans blog series. Click here to see the video where I share my inspiration for each month. My June project was to sew a kaftan.

I’ve long wanted a plain deep v-neck black kaftan. You’d think that would be easy to find — but noooo. There is always something I don’t like about versions I see online. Rag & Bone has a pretty great one but it is $500. And Universal Standard has a great one for $168 but it is made of satin and I really want my kaftan to made of linen or cotton.

Below are images from my Kaftan Pinterest Board. These images capture many of the elements I want: Minimalist design. All black. No extra surface design. Straight hem, not handkerchief style. Deep v-neck. Cocoonish shape. Midi length. Some upper arm coverage.

I shared my sewing process in my Instagram stories. Check out the JUN highlight for process videos and photos.

The image below on the right is me wearing the final dress. Please forgive the bad photo. It was actually the best photo of the lot and I think it does at-least give you a sense of the shape of the dress. I bought the fabric from JOANN Fabrics. It is a linen blend with a heavenly drape. So soft and comfortable. And washable too.

What I learned on this project:

What I’ve learned with this project is that secondhand fast fashion items can be used as patterns for home sewers. When I shop at charity shops I’ve ALWAYS ignored fast fashion items because they are made with cheap polyester fabric and because the construction is generally very poor …. HOWEVER…. often the silhouettes are more inline with what I’m interested in sewing than actual clothing patterns that I can buy in a store like JOANN Fabrics.

I know there are lots of independent designers that are selling clothing patterns online but — A) I don’t know how to search them all to find what I want, and B) I am not interested in printing out multiple 8.5 by 11 pages and taping them together to create a pattern. Store bought patterns come with directions but I personally learn so much about construction from seam ripping apart a piece of clothing. Also, secondhand fast fashion items are sometimes only a few dollars which is probably cheaper than buying a clothing pattern. It’s definitely not great that charity shops are filled with so much fast fashion but if home sewers can use them as patterns it’s better than it just ending up in a landfill, right?

xoxo recovergirl