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  • Writer's pictureLonda

Up-Cycled Patriotic Top

Worn this 4th of July Weekend, 2022, so 'bringing this Post to the front of my Blog Posts...

As a patriotic American, for years I have loved owning a garment in our country's colors of Red+White+Blue. My first (and only so far) real patriotic garment has been the red top you see in the 2nd picture below. This was one of the last fabrics and garments I had from my retail storefront (1990-2003) back in Champaign, IL: Londa's Sewing Etc. I loved this fabric (a cotton/lycra blend woven) because it 'hinted' at our American flag, rather than being 'real' American flag-type fabric that I've always felt somehow to be disrespectful. So when I saw this fabric on a fabric buying trip, I was quick to place it on my order. All that being said, some quick math reveals (and surprises me) that I have routinely worn this top on Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day for the last 18 years!

It was time for a 'make-over', so I drug the red shirt from my closet and took a 'dive' into my 'Blue Stash Crate' and found this plaid shirt that my late father wore - OFTEN. In fact, I love how it still has the 'essence' of my Dad within its threads. Likely that is only in my mind, but it seems true to me. Below, see what I came up with - but read on for the 'process', both design and construction.

I had made a nice raglan style, short-sleeved, cropped shirt from Two for the Road by Cutting Corners - Louise Cutting. Check out the star buttons too. They were set on the front in 2 groups of 3 as you can see but only as decoration as I distinctly remember trying to make buttonholes for them with NO success. Rather, large transparent snaps closed the top.

Dad's shirt is a seersucker, all cotton - with even some holes at the chest area because he wore it SO SO often! I can still see him in it in my mind's eye.....

I ALWAYS gather TOO many fabrics and 'things' to use when I start a project. Below is what I pulled to start out.

The men's ties could have become piping, but instead, I opted for the lighter colored shirt you see at the right and used it for the collar as well. I do keep in mind the 'Rule of 3', and almost always work with at least 3 'things'. That lighter colored shirt was the needed '3rd'.

In deciding where different colors were to go - I used the design principle that dark recede and lights advance, get attention. That's why the dark shirt is at the bottom, and the lighter shirt is at my face in the collar.


Trying on my Dad's shirt, it fit just pretty well other than being quite loose in the arms and body. I decided that I could 'nip it in' some way, so the red fabric would be used on TOP.

One of my first ideas was to make use of the lower curved hem of the red shirt Back as the Yoke on my new shirt.

That worked out quite well. I added a strip folded as a 'flange' or cordless piping at the bottom of the red.

To make the red fabric become one with the base shirt, I did some 'embroidery' through both layers.

At each star, I used the 'button sewing on stitch' to tack stitch. I also straight stitched through the center of each white 'stripe'. This worked out well. IN the picture below, you can also see that lighter blue 'piping', and if you look closely, you can see that I attached it with a row of white topstitching between the double red stitching on the top's original hemline.


To nip it in through the body, I looked for a part of the red shirt to be used and came up with the curved shape center fronts from both sides.

Again, making use of a finished edge made this project go pretty quick and easy!

To control the fullness of the body of the blue shirt, I made a tuck in the center back, by extending the box pleat of the body up at the yoke.

That wasn't quite enough 'nipping', and I also had to decide exactly WHERE the band I was creating would 'land' on the body.

In the picture below, note how much more attractive it is when I raised the band placement to a higher location, rather than dividing the body into 2 equal portions as seen to the right below.

Here is the gathering row around the body then, at the established location.

See to the right of my finger, the box pleat extended from the yoke.

Front closure: I decided this wouldn't 'close' anyway, so actually 'buttoning' wasn't something to accomplish. In fact, I picked up a red tank top at Wal-Mart this morning for $3.86! Sinful, just sinful - but even though I had fabric in my stash I could have used, I 'saved the time' and just bought the red top to wear underneath. I will, however, add some shirring along the sides of the top. I teach all kinds of shirring techniques in my Sensational Shirring pattern.

Look closely at the photo of the full front, and you can see I just cut the front bands off of the blue shirt with a seam allowance on the innermost edge, turned it under for a nice finish, and topstitched them right on top. Even though the collar is shown on in the photo above, I did these center front edges BEFORE the collar.

And here' a back view all finished up...


I had seen a collar like this on a jacket Kay Arthur was wearing during a Bible Precepts Study lecture - and really liked it, so.....

I cut a large, double layer rectangle from the lighter blue shirt, as long as I had fabric for - which was only about 2" longer than the V-neckline measurement I had determined and cut on the shirt at this point. Since I knew that the seam of the collar to jacket on the actual 'inside' would be seen more than the outer connecting point, I opted to set it on by placing the INSIDE of the collar to the INSIDE of the shirt, and then attached the 'OUTSIDE of the collar down with hand-stitching after I had gathered it all to fit. I used VERY small whip stitches for this task. A nice TV job...

A drawstring 'channel' was created by stitching through the 2 layers of the collar, ending at 'holes' in the front edges for where the red shirt 'cord' would extend.


At this point, all that was left was to bring in the hem circumference of the sleeves. I did that with a tuck and then used the sleeve plackets from the light blue shirt to embellish, along with 2 of the star buttons.

I'm lovin my new 'shirt' type top, and whenever I wear it I'll have fond memories of Daddy AND my 'old' USA shirt made NEW again!

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