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Axis, the dress with a wearable spine

So here it is, my dress “axis”! Made of old shirts. And with multiple, subtle cross-stitch axes on checked parts. And a wearable extra spine.

Restricted possibilities

Even when the available resources restrict the possibilities in Upcycling, there are still decisions to make.

pile of 5 shirts for patchwork dress

First decision

Which shirts from my pile of shirts I shall use?

I chose this five cotton shirts in the colour range of blue, white and a bit of brown.

The rule of three

To help with design decisions, the rule of three is helpful. It says, that more than three main ideas in one garment are somehow too much, and less than three are somehow boring.

So I chose these three for axis:

  1. Shirt dress with patchwork skirt
  2. open edges, fastened with top-stitching
  3. Cross-stitched axes in blue, brown and yellow yarn on all checked pieces of cloth

This approach helped me to drop the additional ideas of ruffles and/or bow tie fastening for the sleeves. Liberating!

And of course the dress has pockets. This is a feature every dress should have. Always!

The final dress

Patchwork dress front side in front of forest and sky
Front side
Patchwork dress back side with spine stitchery
Back side with cross-stitched spine

The top of the dress

When I removed the button of the buttoned collar on the right side of the shirt, I cut a little hole into the cloth. To fix this little accident I attached the small stripe lengthwise with open edges.

patchwork dress top with cut off collar with little hole
patchwork dress detail collar

I removed the stiff collar from the original shirt and made a soft one, again with open edges, out of two shirt collars.

patchwork dress detail collar underside
patchwork dress detail collar underside

The solution for the sleeves

cutting off of shirt cuff

I cut the cuffs off, topstitched the open edges and made a new button hole.

Sleeve solution for patchwork dress

The patchwork skirt

After cutting and arranging all cloth pieces of the skirt I made three rows.

patchwork skirt of shirt dress
patchwork dress detail skirt

Then I cross-stitched all the axes and sewed the three rows together, with overlapping open edged top-stitching.

patchwork dress detail skirt with cross-stitches on checked pieces

The side pockets

The side pockets are very subtle, built into the dress almost invisible. I like their elegance.

patchwork dress side pocket inside in work
patchwork dress side pocket

The overlapping open edged hem

open edged top-stitched hem, inside and outside of patchwork dress
open edged top-stitched hem of patchwork dress

The wearable extra spine

Detail patchwork dress back side

After assembling the patchwork skirt with the top shirt I created the main and most important feature of the dress: A wearable extra spine – nice to have in these times.

The german expression “having backbone“ means standing up for one´s values.

Each square represents a vertebra.

1996 I broke my 12th thoracic vertebra in a car accident. Therefore the stitching was an especially emotional process for me, again cherishing the wonder of being healed.

Detail patchwork dress back side with spine stitchery
Detail spine stitchery
Detail of patchwork dress back side with spine stitchery

And here are the scribbles for the embroidered spine:

Scribbles for embroidered spine

Add on

Making this dress was a long, but super joyous experience. I love this dress, it feels so fresh and crisp.

In addition I made also a scrunchie in this very style.

And I made a playlist shirt from the rest of the navy shirt I used for the dress.


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