Upcycled Denim 'Cat Lady' Shirt into Lovely Wrap Blouse with Puff Sleeves ... What It Took M


I've sewn continuously for 5 years, bouncing from a regular sewing machine to my serger, and back to the sewing machine when the stitch was required. My husband even bought me a rolling chair so I did not have to get up anymore for a quick baste or serge. (Not a good strategy for weight management though!)

The Machines I've Bought

I've burned through 3 sewing machines:

  • A Pfaff 1030 'Hobby', (15 years old), a wedding gift from my mother-- it just died one night in it's sleep.

  • An 'expensive at the time' Husqvarna Emerald 118 , stopped working mid-stitch late one night which had me scrambling to Walmart at 10pm for a cheapo (see next bullet point)

  • A cheapo Singer, 'Fashion-Mate' purchased out of desperation to meet a deadline...definitely a beginner machine not meant for heavy duty use...perfect for making quarantine masks or hair scrunchies.

Currently I am on a Brother XR3340 from Costco, and

so far so great! Good price point for the value.

I've upped my serger game from one serger to 4!!!!:

  • Two Juki m-1000...using each machine when I am working on multi-piece costumes and need to quickly move from one color to the other (ie white for petticoats or aprons and a color for the dress)

  • One refurbished Babylock Imagine...permanently set to make beautiful silky, tight rolled hems

  • One Bernette...hello 1980's solid, well-made machine! a $50 purchase off Facebook Marketplace...permanently set to white thread

My sewing room--all machines not shown

Headless Friends

I started Costume Take-Out with one mannequin and now have 4 dress forms! I even thought I needed more sizes, but have learned to adapt 'plus' or 'male' shapes to each form...I accommodate all size requests.

The Late Nights & Weight Gain & Bad Posture

Finger Health

Many long nights into the early hours of the mornings left me with a melange of sorely cracked fingertips, alongside healing wounds and calluses forming.

Weight Gain

I probably do not need to point out that along with long hours, little movement, sitting, sitting and sitting and blindly eating whatever entertained me (sewing can be boring at times) there's weight gain. For my petite frame, I put on 25 pounds of extra weight from mindlessly shoveling Ruffles potato chips and chocolate into my mouth while distracted by listening (cant' watch) to Netflix and sewing.

I could not fit into any of my pants anymore, and I started developing a 4-plex in the 'bust department' when I put on my bras.

I did not develop a complex,

I developed a Busty 4-Plex!

Hunch-Back of Notre Dame

And I am officially a hunch-back...it happens over a constantly bending over. Also, my lower back pain can be sharp sometimes (currently trying to un-do damage done with yoga.)

Me, the Hunch-Back of Costume Take-Out

Covid-19 Quarantine...A Welcomed Break?!

Heck Yeah!

How bad does that sound?

Yeah...I'm coming clean.

....even though I was really creating momentum with my business,

...even though costume rentals almost tripling,

...even though CTO was finally inducted into 'the black', leaving 'the red' finances behind,

...even though this 48 year old was finally getting the hang of her website, social media....

I was just exhausted. There, I said it. I was freakin' exhausted.

I needed to get out of my 40' x 40' studio--the darkest room in the house.

Thank You Quarantine

I might be in the minority out there, but I am saying "Thank You" to Quarantine. Because not only did Quarantine give me a much needed respite from my business, it took me out of necessary compulsion to make more and more costumes to meet growing demand...it brought me back to spending more time with my family.

Every night dinner for weeks on end with my husband and two teen daughters?--priceless...

I was able to get back into my garden and once, in a long time, enjoy Spring here in Northern California, before the weather becomes unbearable at 100F+ for 2 months straight.

Me, a Dirty Garden Hoe, in the garden I'm slowly evolving


So here's the thing with gardening...I can't do it for endless hours as I used to do when I was younger. When I was younger, I'd say "Bring It!", and quickly sculpt my body in time for summer sleeveless blouses, or dare I say bikinis.

But I am now 48...not that I am keeling over soon, but I can't work for more than 4 hours a day or it will put my shoulder, elbow and wrist into cahoots with me. And then I can't really sleep with the painful nerve pulses or that numb, dead-weight sensation, and subsequent day time carpal tunnel syndrome. Not worth it anymore.

Eva, an Oxymoron, Empahsis on 'Moron'

Hmmm.....gardening not eating up all my time, cooking and cleaning getting done,

This lady has some extra time on her hands!

Oh geeze, don't say it Eva!

Don't do it!

Oh, you are going to do it, aren't you?

Heck Yeah! I'm going back in deep! Back to the sewing room to Upcycled a thrifted 'Cat Lady' shirt into a DIY romantic boho wrap blouse.

Cat Lady Shirt

If you watch Saturday Night Live, and have seen Kate McKinnon's 'Cat Lady Skit, you will understand my reference.

Go ahead...Google it...I'll wait right here....

When I found this shirt on the $1 clearance rack at the thrift store, it was almost a "Swipe Left"....a "Cat Lady" shirt.

But what kept my hand on the hanger and compelled my to swipe back into my original visual point, was the embroidery. That's when I knew there was something inherent in this way-oversized, Fuddy-Duddiness.

Sometimes Refashion ideas come super quickly, and other times I need a lightening bolt to strike me while I am out weeding in my garden to come up with Pouf Sleeve Upcycle (links at the end of the blog post).

With 'Cat Lady' shirt, the idea came in a nano-second.

How about a feminine, yet somewhat bohemian, romantic vibe, wrap blouse? All I needed to do was to get home and look into a box of vintage patterns that I have collected for the 'one day' I'd upcycle for myself--thank you Quarantine.

You can see my lovely wrap blouse pattern options below:

And winner-winner-chicken-dinner is this one:

Why Butterick 3384?

The Vogue pattern was too high around the neck, and I was not interested in cap sleeves.

And the Butterick '6 Sew Easy' pattern, did not have pattern pieces for a true wrap, just cross-over V with a tie in the corner.

Just a side note? Did you see how much the pattern cost?

$0.69? Uncut!

Not bad, eh?

When I utilize a pattern, it's really just for inspiration and ideas on how to upcycle my thrifted item. You'll see below how I adapt patterns to marry my vision with the limitations I come across. It's not always easy to fit a square peg into a round hole, but i will cut those corners off, and sand down with a nail file to see if I can get it in!

Step #1

  • Cut the very large shirt down to its usable elements,

(dark spot is moisture from when I steam ironed the fabric)


  • Lay out pattern pieces to see how much fabric I have to work with,

Screech...the noise my process made hitting my first challenge.

Yeah, the pattern only somewhat fits the fabric I have....

ok, now what?

It came to me that I could use a closely matching colored fabric (see lower left corner) for the interface lining (the part that makes the fabric fold over in a sharp edge, like the V-neck I was going to create).

Step #3

  • Cut out pattern pieces,

...or maybe not yet...

Let me show you the next problem. There's not enough fabric to match the pattern in the front bodice.

What to do?

Rob Peter to pay Paul?


I cut the excess fabric below the pattern edge and added it on to the center front of the bodice or in other words, to make the beginning of the wrap sash.

I know, confusing. I included a picture of how I added the fabric on.

Still Confused?

So was I!

Below you will see how I sewed on those extensions created from the extra fabric to make the beginnings of the sash.

And this is why my artform is known as Upcycling or Refashioning.

I would have been done with this blouse in 1 day if I used a few yards of fabric. But deconstructing to reconstruct is what the game is for me. It's what challenges me and keeps me interested. Coming up with solutions? A complete 'high'.

Step #4

  • Cut out the back bodice pattern,

I had to keep in mind that I needed to cut existing shirt in a way that allowed me the most leftover scraps to literally piece-meal together the wrap sash.

Step #5

  • Attach front bodice pieces with back bodice,

I did a check-in to see how it fits so far. The pattern was for a size 12, 34 chest, and I am a 35-36. It works.

Step #6

  • Add the front darts,

This was the most straight forward step so far, but what's an Eva creation with of course some kind of tweak. I did not want to sew into any of the embroidery. So I just made the darts below the flowers.

Step #7

  • Attach folding over interface to make a crisp seam,

Again, with upcycling, I had to get creative on how to extend the interface, which you can see in 1. below. I drafted my own extension with chalk. And remember that extra fabric of the same color? Here is where it comes into play. You can't even see that fabric in the 4. photo below. Blends in so nicely.


  • Make Wrap Sash

(FYI, at this point I was officially off the pattern.)

Here's another crazy, unconventional solution to my problem of finding 49 inches of the same original denim fabric to make the wrap-sash...I took any leftover pieces (and prayed) and laid them side-by-by to see if I could I could make enough sash to tie in front and make a bow.

It worked! You'll see below how I sewed together the pieces, cut it length wise and narrowed the ends.


See below? Enough for the wrap sash! PHEW!

Step #9

  • Connect Sash-Wrap to blouse,

Again, I am off the grid now and have to figure out how attach the sash. Alas, sewing at an angle got me to where I needed to be!

Step #10

  • Create side hole loop for right sash to go through,

Here I had to use a button-hole fine stitch to create the fabric stops of the hole.


  • Attach sleeves,

The original thought I had for the sleeve refashion, was attaching ruffles to armholes. As a dedicated costume designer for 5 years, and creating dozens and dozens and dozens of sleeves, and stomping my foot, and throwing scissors on the ground and verbalizing vulgar words, I know sleeves. When I first started the project, I thought I would have enough fabric. And as it turned out, that was wishful thinking.

My sewing experience helped me pivot towards creating gathered sleeves--a 'la 1980s. By the way, making a serious comeback on Pinterest.

Step #12

  • Have a glass of wine! because it's done baby!

The blouse is now complete. I took my moment. While drinking my wine, I started contemplated styling.

Step# 13

  • Style the blouse to give it a current vibe,

First question I asked myself? When would I wear my Baby Joy?

The 'Where' is easy to answer because the boho, rustic, romantic look screams casual.

Spring & Summer Looks

Option #1 white linen sailor pants

I have had these high waisted, long, wide-legged linen pants in my closet since early 2000's which I loved wearing then with bright yellow basket-weave platform shoes...but it's 2020, and Pinterest is showing me cropped sailor pants. (see pictures below)

Option#2 white, tulle, fluted skirt

Bummer all that I have is a cream colored one....if I only had a white one! Maybe another Upcycle for next summer.

Option #3 White shorts

Let's shelve that idea for now since it's an obvious choice, but more importantly, my legs are winter white still...

(Please note, I am FULLY aware the photos below are NOT Instagram/Pinterest worthy, but casual snapshots trying to figure out what works best with my new Baby Joy!)


  • Refashion/Alter the long pants into sailor pants,

and remove those annoying front ties....

NO PICTURES of this process....


Seriously, alterations of pants and jeans is just super boring.


  • Get another glass of wine,

  • Take off my Quarantine uniform

  • Get dressed up

  • Put some make-up on

  • And take pictures because it's ALL done!

I just love the way it turned out!

Links to My Other Posts Of Related Interest:

Copy-Cat Anthropologie Tiered Dress (Partying With My Parents 2020 NYE)

Costume Lady Sews For Herself (Refashioning a Frumpy Long Sleeved Dress into A Fitted Sleeveless Ruffle Dress)

Puffy Sleeve Refashion (Upcycling Long, Sleeveless dress into Pouf Sleeved Blouse)


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Eva Winger




Tel: 916-320-7403

Folsom, CA

CTO servicing:

El Dorado Hills, Cameron Park, Folsom, Carmichael, Rancho Cordova, Sacramento, Elk Grove, West Sacramento, Natomas, Citrus Heights, Antelope, Fair Oaks, Roseville, Rocklin, Penryn, Auburn, Loomis, Granite Bay, Davis, Dixon, Fairfield, Vacaville,

CTO prides itself in using 99.9%  thrifted materials for clothing & costume creation!