Upcycled Vintage Curtains into Cottage Core, Romantic, Skirt

Again a long break from Upcycling for myself.

What have I been up to? Well, life like the most of you all.

But during that time something was percolating in my mind.

For a while now, I have been featuring other Upcyclers in the "Spotlight" on my blog.

A FaceBook Group for Upcyclers

I had been meeting amazing Upcyclers in the Facebook Group I created called Upcycle & Refashion (Clothing and Accessories Only). Yes, a mouthful, but necessary as there are many Upcycling Groups which catch wearables and non-wearables, from textiles or non-textiles.

For those of you who don't know, there are so many groups out there just for this particular interest. All you have to do is search for groups, join a few, and spend some time in them figuring out which vibe is just right for you.

Click on Image to Join My Facebook Group!

Now, let me take you back to September 2020....There was a major event in my life--taking my 18 year old to college!

A month prior to this move, I was working full-time on blogging about my Upcycles and making a bunch of virtual friendships with ladies from around the world!

Taking My 18 Year Old To College

However, When we realized we had just a month to go, I put all Upcycling on hiatus to focus on my daughter and the logistics of her moving to Southern California.

It's not a great idea to keep blogs idle. People can lose interest in your blog. Not that I am making any money at all, but momentum is lost. There's so much that goes on in SEO when blogs are stagnant.

I thought if I could not blog about my Upcycling, why not share the Spotlight with other artists who could benefit from some special focus. I frequently get asked if I know of other Upcyclers who create wearables.

The Advent of StyleMyThrift Spotlight

That's how the Spotlight was ignited. I simply sent a Q&A form to my co-creators and they sent back their answers with photos of their creations. I posted on my blog as well as a feature in the FB group.

As I was consumed with my daughter, her move, and the after-effects of putting a house back in order, plus moving 4 rooms, painting 8 rooms etc. etc. I featured a new Upcycler each week! And the response from my readers was overwhelmingly positive.

One issue with the weekly Spotlight, I am obsessed with organization. I felt compelled to start indexing the Artists. And then I started indexing their creations....then their businesses.

Click on the above image to take you to the Artist Index.

The Birth of UpcycleMode.com

Ultimately, I started to feel like I was beginning to create a new website. So why not just create another website that is neutral, collective in spirit, and dedicated to all Upcyclers!

And that was that! www.UpcyleMode.com was born. Nothing like it exists on the internet.

The simplest description of this new website is:

UpcycleMode.com is a collective website for Upcyclers wanting to share their story, their creations, their links (social media, ecommerce, or tutorials) outside of Social Media. For other visitors, it’s an opportunity to learn about Upcycling.

I won't be going into much more detail here about this new website because of space, time, and lengthy blog post and reader attention spans, but you can find more info on www.UpcycleMode.com More information on the Home & About Page, and the first blog post. And I will revisit this topic more in the future.


I worked on this project for the month of January. And about the last week of doing it, I was missing Upcycling. A pile of vintage curtains, yellowed with time, had been sitting in the corner of my studio since November. I was gifted these for free, but were skeptical about the stains. But if you know me, the average Upcycler, nothing goes to waste!

Knowing about the discoloration, I figured the best way to use up this fabric would be in a series of historical, storybook-like clothing, but not a costume. Styling being the differentiation.

So my challenge for this project was to take the curtains and transform them into

  1. a historic looking skirt with a nod to 18th Century Marie Antoinette in her 'peasant phase', the 19th Century Prairie and late Victorian time, and the Edwardian Gilded years.

  2. a more casual, current look of Cottage Core, Granny Chic, Lagenlook--a natural looking dress, with zero historic interpretations.

  3. #3 a costume for a child.

NOT ALL IN THIS BLOG of course! ; ) I wish I could get it all done that quickly.

A three part series seems more doable. Three seperate blogs....3 different creations from one set of curtains--there's ALOT of fabric.

Look how lovely the inside of these curtain panels are! Although the back is silky, shiny, satiny, the front floral side is matte.

Let's Get Started

1st Step--Remove Curtain Pleats

  • Use Seam Ripper to open up curtain pleats.

  • Cut along the top to remove the lining from the print fabric.

I always try to maximize the length and width of my fabric. This means doing the extra work of letting out any kind of seam, hem, or in this case the pleats. Then I cut straight across the top to release the curtain lining from the printed layer. The lining was super heavy weight--thick. I was not going to be able to re-use the beautiful lining as it would make my end skirt way too heavy. But I will be able to use it for something in the future for sure!

2nd Step--Cut Fabric For Skirt Dimensions

  • Cut off the yellowing portions. (see the black arrow below)

  • Measure length of skirt desired.

I think you can see that yucky yellowing of the curtain fabric. Thankfully the heavily yellow part was along the edges--not the main part of the curtains. I just snipped along the edge to remove.

I took a tape measure and measured from my waist to behind my calves. I knew ahead of time that I was going to add some layers under the main floral fabric, So I allowed there to be enough length to also hem and also had to consider enough fabric to turn down at the waist to create a tube for a bow sash I had in mind.

3rd Step--Pleat Top of Fabric For Waist

  • Sew the width of the two sides of fabric to create a tube.

  • Fold and pin pleats all along the edge to create waistband. (I folded over about 1.5 inches over on itself for one full pleat).

  • Pin the pleats down.

  • Iron down the pleats for easier sewing.

  • Sew pleats down along waist in 2 parallel rows...about 1.5 inches apart.

  • Serge the raw edge down to finish.

I knew exactly how to make these pleats. After sewing over 20 American Colonial skirts for my local costume business www.CostumeTakeOut.com, I knew this was the perfect pleat for my Cottage Core skirt. The pleats are not only functional, they are also aesthetically lovely versus a regular elastic waistband. I could have opted for a traditonal waistband, but I wanted to incorporate this skirt into my costume inventory. So a drawstring skirt allows for a wider range of sizes.

4th Step--Sew Pleated Waistband

  • Fold over serged edge enough for a sash/tie.

  • Sew along the folded edge to create tunnel for sash/tie.

To create the waistband into which I would thread the satin sash, I simply folded over the serged edge over and sewed maybe 2 inches down to create a tunnel.

5th Step--Make Sash

  • Find some scrap satin fabric.

  • Cut a measured strip.

  • Serge the edges with a 3-needle rolled hem setting.

  • Thread the sash through the waistband tunnel.

  • Bring sash through and even out sides.

  • Tie the sash : )

Scraps, scraps, scraps--I have a ton of scraps! I organize my scraps by color. These are scraps that there's still some use for. I save my shiny scraps for the buttons I make for my Colonial Boy costumes' jackets and vests. To find a longer scrap for a continuous strip? Harder to find in the scrap stash. I was looking for a color that would compliment the brown in the flowers of the floral print. (Pink would have been too sweet for the final look. I wasn't crazy about using blue either).

6th Step--Trim Off Excess Skirt Length

  • Check out length in front of mirror. ...and admire the new sash : )

  • Trim off excess length of skirt.

The skirt was too long for me. I needed to figure out where the length of the skirt should fall in order to accommodate the layers of flounce that I would be adding under the skirt. I wanted some of the flounce to be seen in a peak-a-boo way.

7th Step--Add First Skirt Ruffle

  • Find scrap fabric that is in same family of colors in print of fabric.

  • Measure the length of a ruffle and use rotary cutter to make smooth cut

  • Serge one edge with regular overlock stitch and the other side with 3-needle rolled hem stitch.

  • Baste/Gather stitch the ruffle.

  • Set ruffle length.

I might as well call this skirt a scrap skirt because once again I went to my boxes and found an appropriate color for a nice contrasting ruffle. I use neon thread to make my gathers because it's the thread I never use, but have, and I end up tossing the thread that is pulled from the gather.

As I looked at the ruffle against the edge of the skirt. I found the combination to be nice, but dull. Back to the scrap box to find a lace to allow for a nice transition from skirt to ruffle.

8th Step--Add Lace Border

  • Find lace long enough for skirt border.

  • Measure and cut strip of lace.

  • Pin and sew lace onto skirt edge.

  • Sew ruffle behind lace and skirt.

Back to the scrap bin for the 3rd time! This time for some crochet lace off of a bed skirt. I had just enough left over from making a girl's Pioneer Pinafore Apron.

The lace was not on a gather, rather sewn flat onto the skirt edge. However the ruffle was slightly gathered and needed to be sewn under the skirt, but up the edge a bit as to not constrict the ruffle behind the straight lay of the lace.

9th Step--Add Some Ribbon Trim

  • Find suitable scrap fabric or ribbon.

  • Cut narrow strips of fabric.

  • Use bias maker to make nice even ribbon.

  • Sew on 'ribbon' where skirt meets the border lace.

Back to the scrap bin! This time for something special. Something with shine. Ribbon? Or how about a remnant of a shiny shower curtain! I used this fabric to make a Jochebed costume for a 6th grade girl. No, Jochebed probably did not have shine in her clothes, nor would a Cottage Core skirt as those are typically made from natural textiles.

But since my fabrics are a blend of synthetics and naturals, what the hey--add another element! Kind of like interior designers who blend different textures in a room: wood, stone, metal, shell, etc.

Besides, I added so little of it. And I could not resist, the stripes in the shower curtain were the exact same color as the flowers in the fabric! Talk about color kismet ; )

10th Step--Create a Petticoat

  • Find sheer curtains.

  • Sew along pleated edge to secure pleats and cut off stiff top.

  • Serge edge of curtain so pleats don't unravel.

  • Trim length of petticoat.

I have oodles and oodles of sheer curtains. Once I purchased off craigslist a storage unit full of drapery fabrics, about 30% of the fabric was the sheer type. I have had no use for them until now! For petticoats! I don't make petticoats often because they are a ton of work with a bunch of ruffles to attach. But it's not a difficult to make.

11th Step--Add Ruffles to Petticoat Base

  • Cut 5 inch strips from remainder of sheer curtains.

  • Use a 3-needle rolled hem stitch on one side of the ruffle.

  • Use regular overlock stitch on the other side of the ruffle.

  • Baste one edge and pull thread in for a ruffle.

  • Sew to edge of petticoat.

  • Repeat process 5 times.

  • Sew each ruffle at different heights.

  • Sew Petticoat to the waistband of the Cottage Core skirt, but on the inside.

This is when I turn on some binge-worthy show on Netflix and hunker down to some tedious processes of gathering and sewing. Although it's not hard to do, it's just takes time.

I repeated the ruffle process 5 times since I wanted a real flouncy petticoat that moved softly like a cloud.

And this is where sometimes I forget to take a picture...You need to sew the Petticoat to the inside of the skirt. I attached it to the lower part of the waistband. I try to avoid adding bulk to a waistband any time I can. My apologies for missing that picture--the 12th step was the easiest of all!

How To Style a Cottage Core Skirt

Styling a Cottage Core skirt really comes down to personal preference.

The romantic in me wanted to ERA bend and introduce 18th Century Marie Antoinette in her 'peasant phase', the 19th Century Prairie and late Victorian time, and the Edwardian Gilded years. Add a little sex appeal with the addition of a lace top and lace leggings, with some cleavage. Pompadour or Gibson Girl hairstyle would be requisite.

And then I completely flipped the look of the skirt for a woman who owns her own Vintage boutique in New York City. She wears her Vintage designs, but opts for a pair of Nike trainers because she to run around town as most New Yorkers do. Wearing a contemporary sweater knotted the front with her hair down to contrast the formality and the sweetness of the skirt.

Fun, Fun, Fun were these 2 photo shoots.

Historic Styling

2021 Styling

And there you have it! My Era-Bending Cottage Core Fantasy Skirt with a glimpse of 2021 Styling!

Until The Next Upcycle!

Part 2 of this Series!


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