Sewing a Scrap Dress with Constance Talbot

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Scrap DressAmazingly, this AllFreeSewing editor found herself with a free evening. No work, no chores, no obligations. Obviously, I b-lined it to my sewing machine. Before settling down, though, I glanced upon my copy of the famous Constance Talbot’s, The Complete Book of Sewing. Released in 1943 you would think this collection would now be outdated and obsolete. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Leafing through this age-ridden book I found myself on page 219, “Restyling–Remodeling–Remaking”.

Refashioning?” I asked myself. What with Pinterest commandeering most young craft lovers’ attention, I’ve found myself believing that “refashioning” is a new phenomenon. Who but the 20-somethings could tell you how to make your 1980’s shorteralls into a waist-high, booty-bunching, lace-trimmed pair of Daisy Dukes? Of course, only the greatest generation could rival today’s Scrap Dresstech-savvy, penny-pinching recession babies. Talbot, a member of this hard-working age, thoughtfully reassured me, “Most home sewers think that remodeling always means completely remaking, but frequently some very simple adjustments will give months of wear to a dress which otherwise would have to be discarded.” (Talbot 219). With that in mind, I jumped valiantly towards my box of scraps and went to work.

Mustering Constance’s good, old, American work ethic and resourcefulness, I prepared myself for a journey of oddly shaped fabric pieces, broken buttons, and extreme seam ripping.

The Task: Transforming an old, too-tight shirt and some unused quilt scraps into a dress (obviously for someone tinier and more fun-loving than myself).

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Step 1: Cutting, Adjusting, and Sewing the Skirt

Scrap DressBe assured that Constance, my Sewing Buddy, and I had no pattern while approaching this project because we were pressed for time (only an evening, remember?). My Sewing Buddy and I started with the extra quilt fabric, shaping it to match a more rectangular shape for the skirt of the dress.

Having limited ourselves to just the supplies in our scrap box, we had to make do and mend the pieces available. That resulted in a somewhat patch-worked (but still functional) skirt.

Scrap DressScrap DressScrap DressScrap Dress

Scrap DressAfter “filling in” the bottom half to create a rectangle we needed to apply further scraps to create a shape fitting for a skirt.Scrap Dress

This didn’t come without a price. One of the disadvantages of working with scraps of a striped pattern is that it can often be noticeably off-set when you sew pieces together. The Seam Ripper soon joined our party.


Scrap Dress

Step Two: Sewing in the Waistband

Lucky for me, my Sewing Buddy, Constance, and the Seam Ripper, we have an embarrassingly large amount of scraps and old clothing in our house. During this process I found a skirt that, if I wore outside today, would most likely get me arrested. While this skirt was too short, the elastic waist was just right for my Sewing Buddy for whom this dress was going to. We went to work tearing out both the waistline and buttons of this old piece.

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Scrap DressScrap DressCarefully, we sewed both the waistband and the button strips into the scrapped skirt. The waistband was pre-fit, so we were able to easily ruffle the bottom skirt to fit. Using these already constructed pieces from an old skirt saved us both time and material. You’re welcome, Constance.

Choosing an invisible button-line for the front of the skirt, we removed our button strips and sewed them within the skirt.

Voila! Invisible buttons safely secured.

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Sewing It All TogetherScrap Dress

Having an already sewn peplum top to serve as the bodice, the rest of the dress construction should have taken us no time at all. In fact, we were already enjoying a congratulatory dance over our quick work when…

I stepped on one of the shirt’s buttons…Scrap Dress

and snapped it in half.

Scrap DressCall it luck, but I like to think good old Constance was on our side. Inside the old top we found an unbroken spare button. An unexpected hand sewing break occurred at this Scrap Dresspoint in our journey, lengthening the overall process slightly but allowing us to recoup after the merry bout of dancing.

Alas, we were near the end. Adhering the top bodice to the skirt took no time at all. We decided to take advantage of waistline in the top and align it with our skirt’s waistline so that the peplum showed in the final dress.Scrap Dress

And we were through! One stunningly cute dress for a grand total of $0.00. Turned out to be a pretty great deal and an excellent way to spend an evening.

Scrap Dress


Tell us! What’s your greatest refashion story?








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  1. Rosemary Rivas says

    Two T-shirt quilts and I used the sleeves and the bottoms/backs/scraps from the t-shirts to make nursing pads for my niece with left-over cotton batting. She said they were better than the store bought ones!

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