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  • Writer's pictureLonda

Antique Redwork Squares + Seersucker UpCycle Top

I'm 'sew' lucky to have grown the reputation in town for the lady who will gladly accept most any donation of 'sewing stuff'! It has come in handy both for supplying my sewing students with good 'free' stuff on which to learn, but ALSO the 'stuff' for my creative sewing up-cycle passion!


This garment began with a large stack of antique redwork squares. I love red, white, blue, so that took me to the seersucker that I knew I had been given a huge hunk of. Knowing I wanted to have it in sections, 'playing' the stripes at different angles, that all seemed a 'go'. Then I realized it needed that all-important THIRD element, which took me to my red box of silk ties.


I had no idea if there would be a place for buttons, but I pulled the following selection from my button tins which I have all organized - separated by color.


Knowing that reds always seem to bleed or 'run' when washed, I took the time to soak the red ties in RETAYNE to 'set' the dye. This garment is offered for sale, at my A Londa Original Collection including that information, but also advising to wash in cold water.


I like to flip through my printouts of garments for inspiration, looking for ones that just 'fit' with the 'stuff' I have gathered. For this project, that included these two 'tear-outs' that I gleen from online catalogs, Pinterest, etc.

With those silhouettes in mind, I go to my pattern cabinet. Here's the pattern I landed on, and I decided to use since I needed a larger 'canvas' on which to 'paint' with fabrics and trims. This loose-fitting pattern hadn't been cut yet, so the Size 18 was available - making it the perfect choice.

I started sketching as you might be able to see on the left above. I've placed a larger Picture below. As you can see, I never had any fashion sketching classes..... What I was really playing with here is how I would divide up the pattern Front and Back, and which direction the stripes of the seersucker would go. Note that on the sleeves, the stripes go UP and OUT, leading the eye UP to a broader shoulder line, rather than down and out, creating the look of a wider hip.

Truly, I don't get any more specific than this when I start to design, cut and sew. Sooner or later, I figure you just have to 'dive in' and commit to one thing. On this project, that start was the row of 3 redwork squares going down from the right shoulder (as worn).


I separated the squares - realizing there were several designs of which I had numerous pieces. Some of the designs were 'characters', and others were geometrics. Some were lighter with embroidery and more background, others had more 'work' in them, making them 'darker' and of heavier visual value.

I believe you can see what I'm talking about in the photo above. The ones that seemed visually 'heavier' to me I used to visually 'weight' things by being placed at the bottom.

I quickly realized that I'd need to decide on the construction 'process'. In other words, would I be cutting the garment out as one piece for the entire front and back, then adding the redwork squares ON TOP of the seersucker, OR would I be creating actual panels of the redwork squares, and seaming them into the top?

What was immediately obvious was that the muslin on which the embroidery had been worked was VERY light , almost transparent. If I were to adopt the 'construction' of laying them on top of the seeersucker anywhere, they needed to be made more opaque so that the blue striping didn't show through. Therefore, I underlined each with white batiste, and from there on, treated those and their backing as one piece. Also obvious was that I'd need to 'connect' the filmy redwork squares to this batist backing not only at the edges, but through the centers. I did that using Monofilament Thread in the needle, white thread in the bottom. Using Monofilament thread served to invisibly 'connect' the layers worked out great. I also 'sized' each of the squares so that they were more the same size, stitching around the perimeter on my marked line.

As shown in the photo below of the threesome strip, I started to use narrow folded pieces of one of the red men's neckties to 'frame' each of the redwork squares at this point. Stitching closely to the turned under edges with monofilament thread - all from the top side, is how I started out. This worked far easier than typical 'piping' application methodology.

You can also see that I made a full-size pattern copy using Red Dot Tracer . On top of that, then I taped possible design lines in red, and angle of stripes in green. In the photo above, I'm designing the back.

Below, you can see how I cut up the pattern. On the cut lines, I clearly indicated that a seam allowance needed to be ADDED as I cut. Without the capability of a quick photo shot for reference, this would have been a MUCH harder process! After completing this garment, I most definitely folded up all of these pattern pieces for use again.


This garment took me MANY hours, and many 'goes' at it. I've learned when I've worked long enough, and to just STOP when things start to 'go wrong', or I can't seem to make a decision. The $185 I've put on this garment should truly be more like $385, but I love doing it and want someone to enjoy it - thus my pricing decision. Honestly, it gives me something to blog about, add to Pinterest, etc, so the time I invest has multiple purposes.

Here are some additional final photographs, with some commentary under each.

I used the majority of 4 'red/maroon' men's neckties. For each of these, I have totally taken them apart - no 'guts', or linings are included. The bias cut of ties is what makes them SO great to use!

Finished Front View. The neckline tie bias finish is a Binding and I used a DOUBLE layer of the bias as a French Binding to give it strength. It is stretched quite a bit to get it to lay flat. I stitched it to the WRONG side of the top, wropped the clean-cut edge (3/4" seam) and topstitched with monofilament at the folded innermost edge on the outside. I had hoped to have enough of that tie to do the sleeve hems as well, but I didn't - having to use yet one more tie for the sleeves. At that point, I was happy that I had pre-treated with Retayne FOUR ties just to be safe at the start of this project.

All of what looks like 'piping', or 'flanges' are double folded bias strips of the ties. The loose folded edge was stitched down invisibly with a zig zag 1 wide and 3 long, Monofilament thread in the needle. The hardest part of this work was mitering/maneuvering with this slippery, bias trim around the corners of the redwork pieces. Ughhhhh .

This lighter scale redwork piece was added at the end to help 'balance' the squares around the top.

If you look closely in the photo above, you can see how I stitched across, up and down, and diagonally through the redwork squares. There is a DOUBLE layer of white batiste behind this strip of squares.

I love the bunny in the center back. At first, the 'carrying' of red thread as it shows through from one part of the redwork to the other bothered me, but it seems to just be part of the redwork character.

In the picture below, I'll point out that there is a 'reason' for the placement of this square. Note that the corner intersects a point of the seersucker pieces.

The photo above also shows the very low, off-shoulder sleeve seam.

And - a closeup of the left front pocket. I initially had it on the right lower section, but changed my mind - a Woman's prerogative, right?


I do have 13 antique redwork squares left over as in this photograph. I have them up for sale HERE for $25. I'm thinking in a denim or chambray apron .....

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