Some say you cannot sew for less money than you can buy something ready-made. I’m here to prove them wrong, sometimes. I agree brandname fabric purchased new can be very costly but there are still other ways around an expensive handmade dress.

Coming from a frugal family I learned early in my sewing career that I could buy fabric at the thrift store. In 2009/2010 I made a ton of dresses for under $3 with thrift store fabric and I did an entire series of dresses out of tablecloths, sheets and curtains.

Refashion is really big now and I am glad to be in a time where people are making, sewing, designing and thinking outside of the box. It was also popular in the 1940s and was called, “make do and mend.” People also call it upcycling.


During the holidays, especially halloween, big box stores want to give you the best deals on costume fabrics. Panne crushed velvet was on sale for $3 or so a yard at our local big box. I went in and bought 4 yards of navy blue. After I had the fabric the big pattern dig started. I wanted to make something modern out of a vintage pattern. Plus – it needed to be free! I went with this 1970s Butterwick dress pattern. I felt a cropped shirt would look great with wide legged pants and a circle skirt. A little at the top and a lot on my bottom for proportions.


I used the pants pieces of the 1970s vintage pattern and the dress pattern bodice pieces to make a more modern outfit. I guessed at where my waistline would be. I only wish I would have made it an inch longer. This is a good tip – a little longer can always be made shorter but once you cut you commit.

The crushed panne velvet is flimsy and I wanted a dramatic wide leg look. I used pieces of broad cloth in the front and back legs to stiffen it and give it structure and flair while keeping the stretch in the waist and hips. This also solves the problem of stretching in the knees.

The circle skirt was drafted by me. It is a strip of velvet the circumference of my waistline with elastic in it to make it firm and a full cut circle. I made the circle by folding the knit in fourths and cutting out a 4″ hole out of the corner for the waist. I learned a long time ago the waistline hole stretches out if I do not stay stitch. I was banking on this. The hole went from 12″ to 26″ with no problems.

I wear this outfit all the time and people compliment it. I never tell the person how cheap it was. I let them think it’s fancy.

Behind the scenes~

My Spring classes at Rosewood Art Centre have released and I have already submitted my summer classes. I have a new class, Social Media for Artist and Makers.

I am excited to be a guest speaker this month for the Creative Quilt Guild in Dayton. I’m doing my first powerpoint presentation and taking some of my quilted dresses to show them.

Want to get supplies for practically nothing and help reduce environmental waste? Destash Bash is going through the month of March.



Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream It! Sew It!

Tracy McElfresh
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