A Piñata dress for sew unconventional

I’ve been participating in another sewing challenge on Instagram, and this time it’s about sewing an outfit (or garment) from unconventional materials. We had the month of January to complete the challenge, and, after a bit of a false start and a 10 day holiday, I did manage to cobble together an outfit that I’m pleased with.

When our kids were young we made piñatas for every occasion, including the memorable one where we had made it so well that it had to be cut open with an angle grinder, no amount of smacking was going to crack it!  I was not proposing for anyone to have a swing at me, but I thought it was a nice nod to those halcyon days.

I wanted my outfit to cost nothing and be completely compostable – no landfill for me! I gave this quite a lot of thought when we were on our holiday and decided to use the free local newspapers, some 100% cotton thread which came from my friend Leonie’s mother’s stash, and some cornflour which we received in a box when our neighbour’s moved to Brazil and had left over groceries. I had the makings of a piñata dress!

The first thing I made was some glue. I thought about PVA glue but I would have had to buy it and I didn’t think it would be compostable, so I went with the slightly more tedious cornflour glue. It is made by mixing cornflour and a small amount of cold water together to form a paste. I added boiling water a little at a time, stirring vigorously, until I had the right consistency. I confess I used a blender for this.

I began with the bodice section. This was basic papier mache over my dressmaker’s form and I did put a video of me slapping the paper over the dummy on Instagram, but I won’t bore you here. When I tried it on I found that the shape was quite wrong for me, not that anyone would know, but I’ve got to tell you that my bustline was considerably lower than the one in the bodice. 


I cut into the shoulders and lengthened them and then had to use more papier maché in the armscyes as I was displaying more than I wished.


Once this was done, I trimmed up the neck and tidied all the edges, “binding” them with thin strips of paper so they wouldn’t scratch me. I also added a panel at the back as a closure as I had cut the bodice off the dummy.

On to the skirt part! I didn’t want the skirt to be really stiff, so I decided to laminate whole sheets of paper together. First I glued several sheets together to give me the size of “fabric” that I wanted. Then I made a second sheet of fabric and glued the two big sheets together creating laminated fabric. This was quite flexible and even had a slight drape.

I used the wrap skirt pattern from Liz Haywood’s soon to be released book “Zero Waste Sewing” . I liked the look of the skirt and it is made to my measurements exactly, so I thought it was a good choice.

I sewed the laminated paper like regular fabric, but my skirt has seven panels and as I added each one the paper got quite difficult to manage. I finished up rolling it up rather roughly to fit it under my machine.


All that glue and newsprint doesn’t make for clean hands!


Of course I wanted pockets in my skirt and I put one in the seam of the skirt, but every time I put my hand in it it tore away. I finished up with a patch pocket and I have to use it rather gingerly.


I had to find something unconventional to secure the skirt as I didn’t think ties would be strong enough. I had a bit of a fossick and found this suspender, which I think I last wore when I was fifteen. I made a little tab for it to hook on to.


I made a very fine buttonhole for the suspender to hook through, but it just tore away, so I finished up just cutting a hole which I reinforced with a piece of paper glued on. It worked like a charm. By the way, the top edge does match up, I just took a careless photo.  You can see that I did fold and sew the edges.


The last element of my outfit is a hat. I began with a piece of cardboard which I got free from the local recycling centre. I used papier mache to give myself a band and then began going over the top for the crown. A couple of sheets in and the crown collapsed. I decided to change the shape of the hat from a bucket to a trilby style which conveniently has a collapsed crown. It took a lot more work, I had to mould and shape and use quite a lot of paper, and I confess to enrolling my husband in the activity as he’s something of a papier mache artist. The brim was built out a sheet of paper at a time, and all sorts of things were used to shape it as it was drying. Typically, I got so involved in the making of this hat that I completely forgot to take photos. This one shows how I flattened out the front and pinned the hat so it would dry.


Whilst the hat was probably the most work and is the element that pleases me the most, it is quite heavy and very uncomfortable! It finished up being too big for me, and in fact, doesn’t fit any member of the family, being too small for Mark and Tom and too big for Bridgette. I intended to compost the hat with the rest of the outfit, but it’s going to be tossed placed carefully in the dress up box.

The last thing I had to do was find some means of securing the back of the bodice. I found a couple of vintage hat pins and decided they were the perfect thing.


The following photos are from the photo shoot, and I am trying to show the placement of various headlines.




I managed to get some of the headlines strategically placed.

The gores in the skirt are quite apparent from the back.IMG_4343IMG_4340IMG_4331IMG_4328IMG_4330Screen Shot 2020-01-31 at 7.53.59 pm

This has been a fun and interesting challenge. If you want to see some of the other extraordinary makes and makers head over to Instagram and the Sewunconventional tag. I’d like to thank the hosts, Lynn from Lynnwardrobesews, Tabitha from tabithasewer, and SewingBloggers. They have done such a great job of inspiring us all and garnering the most amazing list of prizes from some very generous sponsors for the best three entries


18 thoughts on “A Piñata dress for sew unconventional

  1. The angle grinder story made me laugh out loud!
    The newspaper makes a great outfit – love how the skirt hangs, and love the way you added the headlines.

    1. Thank you Liz, how nice does the skirt look? It’s actually a bit big even though I made it to my measurements, so I’m going to rework the pattern.

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