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

picture of my sewing room

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.

picture of my dress-forms

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.)

picture of me hunched over

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 wearing Dirty Garden Hoe t-shirt

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.

Before picture of 'Cat Lady' shirt

Embroidery on Cat Lady shirt

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:

Vogue V9293, Butterick 3384, Butterick 85030--sewing patterns

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

Butterick 3384 sewing pattern

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,

beginning of cat lady shirt

cut up cat lady shirt into usable pieces

(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).

laying pattern out on cat lady shirt

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.

pattern not fitting so well on cat lady shirt

adding fabric extenstion

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.

sewing on front bodice extensions

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.

cutting out back bodice

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.

Attach front bodice pieces with back bodice

Step #6