Sunday, April 10, 2022

Upcycled Dress with Bias Tape Accents - Critique

I recently took a class hosted by my wearable art guild,, on the use of bias and straight of grain tape for embellishment.  The teacher was who does beautiful work. The class was in 2 parts: 1) technique & then build a garment using the techniques, 2) project show & tell with feedback and Q&A.

I dived in enthusiastically with a garment in mind.  My intention was to make a baby doll/empire waist style upcycled shirt dress, in a modified version of the Paganoonoo Rebecca Dress.  The skirt section is made using upside down sleeves with the cuffs forming the waistband and the sleeve caps the scalloped hem.

The result was a bit of a mixed bag and perhaps a work in progress with quite a bit of learning!

What I think works about my dress/design:
  • It is super comfortable! It is loose enough that I can sit on the floor to play with my grandson. This was a key consideration from the beginning.  I was willing to sacrifice flattering for comfortable.

  • The bias tape makes an interesting accent, highlighting the various shapes.

  • The color palette - if the front top and bottom were better tied together.

  • I was able to continue the bias tape over the pocket for a seamless line.

  • The crow patch.

  • The button accents.
What I would change next time (or maybe attempt to modify on this one):
  • The bottom (skirt) section is too high in the front and/or too low in the back. Due to the construction techniques used it would be impossible to lower in the front and possible but time consuming to raise in the back (most troublesome).

  • The contrast between the top and bottom of the dress is too pronounced in the front, with not enough to tie it together (potentially fixable and second most troublesome).

  • In an attempt to make a more fitted bodice I crossed over the bottom front plackets to take up some of the extra volume.  This did not take up enough volume to really work, and makes the bodice look crooked.  I would consider on the next one potentially making it a wrap dress in the front with tie closures for a better fit. (not easily fixable)

  • I pinked the edges on the shoulder sleeve seams, leaving them raw at the hem, then decided to add bias tape to the hem.  The raw edges poke out under the bias tape and look odd. (not fixable)

  • The scallop at the hem center back is too long, and the color stands out too much. (fixable)
Bottom line: Don't be afraid to experiment with new techniques.  I made mistakes on this dress and learned some things along the way.  The best way to learn is to do.

Happy upcycling, Michelle

Monday, September 13, 2021

Raw Edge Mandarin Collar Transformation

I scored a plain denim collared shirt recently at the thrift store.  It will make a great fall top or dress. I haven't decided which.  In the meantime, while on a zoom meeting and a bit restless, I picked up the shirt and seam ripper and picked out the top part of the collar.  

I'd done this before and just stitched it back up into a polished looking mandarin collar (tip on how to do that here).  This time I noticed the inside seam was a darker color as it had not faded in the laundry.  I like a raw edged look and the idea of a darker band on the top of the collar.  

I pulled up the seams, trimmed off the excess threads, layered them and hand stitched them together.  This makes the collar a bit taller and softer looking.

Next up - it is just a tiny bit too tight across the bust.  I think I will unpick the underarm seams and add a godet. 

More as it progresses!

Happy upcycling, Michelle

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Ellie Dress Hack - Turn your Paganoonoo Ellie T-shirt into a Dress!

The Paganoonoo Ellie t-shirt is flattering and comfortable, solving the common problem of not enough room in the hips and belly.  

Once you've transformed your t-shirt, it can also be made into a very comfortable and flattering dress.  This post provides links to the methods for the dress hack.

Here is an example of an Ellie t-shirt that has been transformed into a dress.  The bottom tier of the dress was made with another t-shirt and part of a vintage linen tablecloth.
Watch this video to see three examples of Ellie t-shirts, including the one above, that have been transformed into dresses.

There is also a one page instruction sheet that is a companion to the video. 
 A PDF copy is available here.

We also did a live zoom session with additional information. 
You can view it here.

What other Paganoonoo garment hacks would you like to see?
Let me know in the comments section.

Happy upcycling!


Monday, July 26, 2021

New Paganoonoo Design - The Carol Jacket

 Paganoonoo has a brand new design - the Carol Jacket! 

Based on a classic Japanese field coat, or Hanten, this versatile unlined unisex jacket can be made in 2 formats:  1) upcycled from dress shirts or 2) from denim jeans.

What is different about this design vs. typical Paganoonoo designs?  It is an actual pattern - printed PDF - you print tiled on your home printer or send to the print shop vs. deconstruction and reconstruction instructions.
With the Carol jacket you are cutting apart the starting garments to make color-blocked "fabric" that is then used to cut out each pattern piece. 

You decide how to distribute the shades & colors: light/med/dark.

Here pattern tester Lucy Sisson chose dress shirts in a muted palette of lavender shades.  Note that the dress shirt sleeves are used to make the jacket sleeves and the sleeve cuffs make the jacket cuffs.

Pattern tester Laura Fairchild also made her jacket from dress shirts but chose a bold palette.  It reminds me of Amish quilts.

Pattern Tester Marcia Mitchell made a multicolored denim version with large appliques and decorative ribbon.

Pattern Tester Kathleen O'Brien chose to add her embellishment to the front band and carried the original leather label forward to adorn a pocket.

The sleeves on the denim version are wider than the dress shirt.  This is to comfortably accommodate a sweater underneath without feeling constricted. 

Here I am modeling my version of the jacket made in jeans:

For a more in-depth overview watch this
YouTube introduction.

Make your own version today!  Perfect for any season, suitable for advanced beginners.
Purchase in Paganoonoo's Etsy shop.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Introducing Noor Bchara and the Upcycle Design School

Noor and I have been following each other online and recently connected. It turns out we have complimentary businesses in that I design upcycled clothing that can be used to make small batch production and Noor's school is for folks who would like to know how to start an upcycled fashion business.

I will be doing a free zoom meeting with Noor on Thursday June 17, at 10:00. I will cover general info about Paganoonoo, have a video trunk show and a demo on how to make the Ashlee. register here

I'll let Noor explain more about her business...

Hi, I’m Noor Bchara

I am the founder of Upcycle Design School where I offer on-demand video classes specializing in the scalability of upcycling and repurposing. I’m also an adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City where I teach about Upcycling and Repurposed design. My goal as a designer is to keep as many garments out of landfills as possible. 


Upcycle Design School’s mission is to provide inspiration, knowledge and community to our fellow
creatives around the world. It's about sharing resources, ideas, materials and
inspiration about upcycled fashion. 


Upcycle Design Masterclass is about the opportunities and challenges of building an upcycled apparel or accessories brand. As the concept of upcycling gains popularity worldwide, I created this class to demonstrate how to successfully launch and scale an upcycled apparel or accessories brand, based on my own experience of founding NOORISM, a repurposed denim brand and teaching about Upcycling at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

This course promises to give you the tools to successfully launch and scale your idea for an upcycled apparel or accessories brand.

I made a lot of mistakes when I first started NOORISM, so I created this class to help others avoid making those same mistakes I did. Upcycle Design Masterclass is designed to teach people how to take their upcycled idea and turn it into a real business that can scale and grow. 

It consists of 4 modules of on-demand video lessons along with access to bonus reading materials, worksheets and templates.





Video Tour:


"Noor is truly the queen of upcycling! She has taught me so much about how to be resourceful and find the most efficient ways to create new garments from recycled materials. She has a ton of knowledge about the fashion industry and garment production and has dared to approach it in a more sustainable way with her brand NOORISM. She has also constantly encouraged me to think big and be a savvy business woman. She is an incredible innovator, and a great mentor to have!”

Aly Reinert, Founder/Designer, The Untrend Shop


"Before this class I had no idea where I was going with my upcycling business, now I have a purpose and direction to take it in. Noor was very supportive of everyone's ideas while still being realistic and providing helpful critiques."

Eileen O'Brien, Designer, Renew Embroidery


"Noor's in-depth approach to upcycling, both through her brand and her courses, is thorough, original, thoughtful and comprehensive. She takes into account not only the raw materials she carefully selects but also the production methods and how to consciously scale sourcing and manufacturing, a challenge when it comes to upcycling. Her course is a must for anyone interested in building a business focused on upcycled design and can be applied to fields outside of the fashion industry even."

Tara St James, Designer/Consultant, Study NY & Re:Source



IG: @upcycledesignschool 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Paganoonoo Upcycled Jeans and Belt Bag Class Online $35

 I love to upcycle jeans. 

They are well constructed, age beautifully and are plentiful.  Leather belts are also easy to find at thrift stores. A few years ago I decided to pair the two into crossbody bags.  

I wear them just about every time I go out, especially for shopping and travel.  People are fascinated and we end up discussing upcycling fashion and the possibilities. 

I realized the bags would make great gifts or projects for home sewists.  The bags can be plain & rugged, or embellished, are unisex, useful for all types of people, and are sturdy, lasting a long time.

The possibility to create something uniquely yours is endless.  These bags are the perfect palette for experimentation.

The great news...

I created an online bag making class that covers:

- how to sew starting with denim jeans
- selecting the best type of jeans and belts 
- how to plan and construct the bag 
- how to attach the belt
- the best time to add any embellishment 
- embellishment inspirations
- how to care for the bag

Best news yet - it is only $35 for 45 minutes of instruction! You can watch and work at your own pace.  Get started making your own bags now.

Happy Upcycling! 

Michelle Paganini

Monday, December 7, 2020

Simple Gifts From Vintage Linens

 Sweet simple gifts are easily made from vintage linens (not being used otherwise!). Those unused dresser scarves made great bags for shoe storage when traveling, ...

or laundry bags, or small bags for misc. goods.

I can tell you from experience that opening up your luggage on the other end of a trip and finding something like this is a welcome sight. 

Of course these could also be used as gift bags, or given as a set of gift bags.  I've found numerous uses for mine.  Hostess gift?  Yes please.

The ties have been made with cashmere yarn, t-shirt yarn, and ribbon. 

Most of these bags are made with minimal sewing with just a few straight lines of stitches. If you have been wondering what to do with (non precious) family linens perhaps these will inspire.

I hope you are well, healthy, happy or getting the support you need to deal with life's inevitable ups and downs.  


P. S. to see more gift ideas and other upcycling tips you can enroll in my free upcycle sewing tips class:

Thursday, December 3, 2020

 #Duster, #Cowgirl, #Prairie

Recently I was messing about with my Michelle pattern, a dress I had made that turned out too long in the front. It is made entirely of man's dress shirts. I ruched the front section even with the back hem.  Now my knees showed!  Not my best feature, hmmmm.

I had some vintage lace* that was donated by friend, yards and yards of it. About 2" long, it would add just what I needed.  So I added lace to the hem.  I had cut the sleeves down and they were awkward - not short but not ¾ length.  I added lace to the sleeves as well to solve the problem and tie in the hemline.

I liked it!  Too lazy to take off my overalls I modeled it on top of them and shared with my facebook group ( and they liked it better as a duster than a dress!  Live and learn, lol.

Here it is in all it's glory.  The fabulousness of this design is the endlessly long inverted sleeve pockets.

* BTW the lace had become discolored and yellowed with age. A trick I learned is to soak it in Oxiclean overnight, starting with hot or boiling water.  Worked super well.

Happy Upcycling!


Friday, November 20, 2020

Nylon Nightgown Repaired With Cashmere - Michelle Paganini

I just repaired a thrifted nightgown with a patch made from a moth-hole-riddled cashmere scarf.  It started  as a small hole which I ignored. It grew. And grew.  Soon it was more than 12" long, and then a second hole appeared. Although the nightgown was a favorite, I set it aside, thinking it was done.Then I looked at similar nightgowns on eBay.  First of all the color and style were difficult to find and seemed to be quite expensive (for my preferences). Hmmm.

I thought of repairing the gown, but with what?  Silk? Hmmm, slippery.

Then my friend Antoinette at Happy Dragon Thrift Shop rescued a moth-hole riddled scarf from going into the rag bin and saved it for me.  She knows that any cashmere, no matter how damaged, I will use. 
I washed the scarf in hot water and dried it in a hot dryer.  I cut out a section and laid it on my ironing board.  I layered the nightgown on top.  Bonus - very little slipping.  Some light pinning and I started to hand stitch. 
The long edges of the nightgown's hole curled under, so stitched down quite nicely. There was one hole in the scarf section that I decided to reinforce and leave, just for fun.

I think the cashmere will hold up well and work perfectly.  The remainder of the scarf will become a bed wrap.

Happy Repair and Upcycling!

Michelle Paganini

P.S. - Michelle creates upcycle sewing designs and writes tutorials for home sewists (like a pattern but with no pieces to print a cut.  Super flattering, room for hips and bellies and simple to sew. The Ellie and Patti are good choices to start.