Mar 23, 2015

Greetings From the South Seas!

I would love to be on a beach somewhere in the South Seas with the sun shining brightly and the breeze blowing gently.  But, alas, that just isn't the case right now.  Although, we got a taste of the tropics at our last church activity.  We "cruised" to the South Seas.  I was asked to decorate for the event..something that I love to do. We were trying to make it somewhat simple and most of all inexpensive.  The majority of my decorating was focused on the stage where the entertainment would be.  In fact, I didn't even get pictures of the grass skirting around the food tables, the bamboo table runners cut from thrifted bamboo blinds, or the tabletop tiki torch centerpieces.  But I can show you some scenes from the stage, and the dress that I managed to refashion for the event.
The palm trees were made from heavy duty cardboard tubes and brown paper lunch sacks.  It wasn't an original idea, you can find other examples by doing a quick search on the web.  The tubes were extras that were being thrown away from an upholstery fabric shop.  I did use my chop saw and made a few cuts about 2/3 of the way through the tubes in strategic places.  I would make 4 or 5 cuts about 1/8" apart.  I then "scrunched" those cuts together and taped them with duct tape.  This gave me a nice bend in the trunks.
The next step was to cut a slit in the bottom of a lunch sack, slide it over the tube, tape it in place around the bottom (you only have to the tape the first and the last sack to keep them in place), then scrunch it down.  My son and his friends continued adding and scrunching sacks until the tubes were completely covered.  I then used some brown spray paint to add a little texture to the trunks.  To make the trees stand, I just screwed three 2x2's (standing upright) to a piece of plywood.  I made two stands since I had six trees.  The trunks just slipped over the top of the 2x2's.  I placed a 10lb. weight in the center of the trees (on top of the plywood) to keep them stable.  The greenery at the base of the trees covered the weight and the plywood.  As for the greenery at the top of the trees, two of them sported silk ferns.  The other four were fashioned from one large tropical plant I picked up at a thrift store for $14.99.  I just cut the branches apart and wired them together, slipping them into the tops of the tubes.
I really scored at one of the thrift stores I visited.  I found these brown balls that looked just like coconuts.  They even had a loop of twine on each one which made it easy for attaching them to the trunks.  At 59¢ a piece I snatched up 18 of them, along with a bag of spanish moss, orange tropical flowers, a silk fern, and two straw balls (I don't know what they were for originally, but they looked like they would fit in with the tropical theme.)

I really like vintage post cards and thought one would be perfect for the scene.  I started with a frame made from 3/4" pvc pipe.  I used an ombre-dyed sheet that was used at our Moroccan activity and stretched it over the frame.  I secured it with safety pins.  The edging of the postcard is just a package of bulletin board border from the dollar store.  I used the back of them and taped them in place.  The black shoreline is poster board.  The ocean is some fabric that I had.  The trees, sun, and lettering were cut using my Cricut.  The main letters were cut from the pages of a book on Hawaii that I picked up for $1.99.  One tip:  When hanging lightweight things like lettering, etc. on stage curtains, or in this case fabric stretched over a frame, I like to tape an open safety pin upside down on the back of the letters or pictures.  I can then use the pin as a hook and poke it right into the fabric curtains or backdrop.  The whole "post card" was hung from the curtain rods above using black twine.
It was a fun "cruise" in the middle of winter.  I thrifted my husband's shirt and my dress for the event.  Although, my dress didn't start out this way.  If you want to keep reading, you can see some detail pics along with the transformation.
 The Dress

I started with this oversize dress...

What I really wanted, though, was it to look something like this...more fitted, ruffled sleeves, and a high-low hem with ruffle.

The finished results were close enough to make me happy with the outcome!  Plus, I was finally able to wear the shell lei that I brought home from Hawaii years ago!

I used the excess fabric that was removed from the sides of the dress to cut strips for my sleeve ruffles.  I didn't have enough width to make just two wider rows of ruffles, like my inspiration dress, so I went with three narrower rows on the sleeves.

I applied a rolled hem of contrasting navy blue, using my serger, on the ruffles instead of going through the laborious job of sewing bias tape to all the ruffled edges like the inspiration dress.  I also added a bit more color by adding some navy piping to the neckline.

The extra fabric that was removed from the length of the dress was cut into two strips, serged, gathered, and sewn to the hem of the dress.

The Process

After removing the facings and sleeves, I placed the dress on my dress form to get an idea of how much needed to be taken in.

 After taking in the shoulders and sides, it went back on the dress form.  I knew I wanted raglan sleeves, so I used a pattern in my stash to give me an idea of where to cut.  I pinned the pattern in place and marked the cut lines with some chalk.

I did the same thing with the sleeve pattern.  As you can see, though, the raglan pattern was too wide for the original sleeves.  I just made a pleat in the pattern and opted for sleeves that weren't as full.

I made casings at the bottom and top of the sleeves for elastic.  I also added the ruffled strips to my sleeves before setting them into the armholes. (no picture)

I cut down the original facing pieces and was able to reuse them to finish off the new neckline.

For the hem, I folded the dress in half along the center front and center back lines.  I used my tape measure as cutting guide for the high-low curve.

Once the new hemline was cut, I serged the edge.

From the excess fabric, I cut two strips, stitched them together, applied a rolled hem, gathered, pinned, and stitched them on top of the new hemline.

And there you have it!  Thanks for sticking with me to the end!

I like to link to these great parties!


  1. Your decor is fabulous; and the dress is darling. I think the key to refashioning is having a dress form to work on. Great work!

    1. Thank you! I agree, a dress form is a real asset when refashioning. I do need to the try the garment on still to get just the right fit, but it really helps with the whole process...especially draping the garment on the form to get an idea of what you want.

  2. Great refashion and I love your postcard and trees! Your ward parties look/sound like those in my old ward- awesomely over the top. You should have seen when we had our "Clue" dinner, each table ( and wall behind) decorated to match a room from the movie/game.😄

    1. Thank you and what a fun ward activity! When I was growing up, we always had the best ward activities, and my parents were always in charge of the decorations and entertainment. Even though they can be lots of work, I love being involved with them!

  3. Great job! Both the decor and the refashioned dress.

  4. This is wonderful! When our youth group used to do drama, I always enjoyed letting creativity flow and create scenery and props as well as the costumes. One year it was Jonah and I did one scene which was the inside of the Great Fish's stomach! The lad sat on a small stool in front of it.
    They have all grown up, went to uni and/or got married.
    Sandy in the UK

  5. I mean really Susan, is there anything you can't do?!!!??? Your creativity and talent never cease to amaze me. I was wowed to read about and see the tropical decor, but then to scroll down and see how you refashioned the dress, too! AH-MA-ZING! Thanks for sharing your work with us and showing us how you do it all.

  6. Your creations always look so good, Susan, you have a great eye for the details that make the difference.

  7. Hello, a very nice stuff you have share in this post. I found your blog incredible, thank you and share more these like things.
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Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate the feedback and always look forward to reading what you have to say! Susan