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Technicolour table runner trousers

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This table runner had been in my stash for quite a while.

Bought at a jumble sale in a fairly upmarket area adjacent to mine, I was attracted by the colourful embroidery against the strong blue background.

There was no label and I wondered if it was an unwanted holiday souvenir from some exotic location.

This fabric is the product of a very clever loom because the reverse is plain blue, with just a few slubs of the embroidery threads visible.


I had auditioned this fabric many a time for projects past, but despite my hopes and dreams, it had never made the final cut .. …. until now.

As it was long and thin, trousers were to be the thing, combined with denim.


I was using this commercial pattern, given free with a magazine, having first made a shorts version toile to check the fit.

I was adapting the pattern to suit me by missing out the front fly and making a flat fronted version with a side zip.

Pattern makers always seem to want to mess with your mind.

First they bring you down a peg or two, or rather up a size or two by indicating from the given measurements that you are actually a couple of sizes bigger than you thought you were.

Swallowing your pride and making up the suggested size, you find that it is actually miles too big, so you end up ignoring measurements on the packet and making up the size you first thought of, well that’s what happens to me anyway.

There wasn’t enough fabric for all of the trousers but as this pattern had seams down the middle of the legs I was going to use the tablecloth to make the middle sections.


I was careful to lay out the pattern pieces to match the patterns up on the tablecloth.

This lovely soft pair of jeans, seen here with the pocket already removed, formerly residing in the other side of the wardrobe, were perfect for the outside legs.  They were worn thin in parts but I thought this could be stabilised with some embroidery to compliment the table runner.


After having a go at  hand embroidery, shashiko style,


I could see it was going to take an age and not look that good, so I turned to my machine.  As it is actually named ‘décor computer’ there are a number of fancy stitches which it could complete and which I was relying on to strengthen the worn denim areas.



Everything was going well, I sewed the thing up, inserting the reclaimed zip from the jeans, and tried them on, the trousers were still a bit big.


At this stage there were 3 problems

1. The pattern matching was spot on at the back but off at the front.

2.  I started to wonder if the trousers were looking like something a clown might wear.

3.  The loose weave of the tablecloth was coming apart at the seams.


I scratched my head about the pattern matching before realising that the table runner was not symmetrical around the centre, and this had thrown the pattern off when it was sewn up.  Too late now, I would have to live with it.

The carefully pressed seams would have to be re-inforced somehow. Once again my machine came to the rescue.  It has an overlock stitch, which although on the main menu, I rarely use.  I sewed over all the seams again using this stitch, which is like a running stitch and a zigzag combined.  It is heavy on thread but useful for fraying fabrics and I made a mental note to use it more often in future.  This also made the trousers a mm smaller over all seams, making the fit perfect.

Wanting the waistband to be comfortable (I want all my clothes to be comfortable) I found a slightly stretchy black denim from a previous refashion which I cut a strip of and folded over.  I was going off pattern again here – my method was simpler but I admit looks a bit messy on the reverse – a commercial maker would cover all the mess with some pretty tape – I may bind it myself later.


I put the trousers on again and skipped around the house in them for 10 minutes – only the hem left to finish.  When I took them off I noticed it was clear that the loose weave could not tolerate even the most minor strains.  At the centre front seam, gaps were starting to appear.  Nothing for it but more re-inforcements.

I selected some no stretch uncompromising ankara from my stash and anchored it to the denim parts of the seams to make a sort of bib to protect the belly and bum areas so that the centre seams were not under any strain whatsoever.


The effect of this was to take a little more off the size – its a good job they were a bit big in the first place.

At the hems I left a fashionable bit of fraying on the denim parts, mostly out of necessity to preserve the length.

I brazenly tried out my clown trousers at a roof garden in one of the most fashionable parts of town.



Bonus feature – Nordic tunic

During a local charity shop trip, I opened a drawer in a vintage dressing table which revealed that it was full of actual fabric.  Most of it looked like home textiles but I bought a green flowery piece, I suspect dating from the 80’s, mostly just because I was surprised to find it on sale.

Using a commercial pattern I sewed up this item described on the cover as a nordic tunic, although  I suspect this is just a way of making a simple dress sound more interesting.


It was a very quick sew, a couple of hours, quicker than most refashions I do,  am considering making another. The pattern description suggests making it in different weights of fabric for different seasons and it is indeed versatile, being able to be worn with a jumper, t-shirt, or nothing underneath.


T- shirt to cardigan refashion

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I bought this t-shirt for £3 at a local charity shop,  looking for something in a neutral colour to make into a layering item and this fitted the bill.


Its a men’s large by Farah, 100% cotton, made in Turkey.  The fabric is a good weight, slightly thicker than any t-shirt I currently own and a nice grey marl.

The plan was to make it into a short sleeved cardigan.  First thing was to cut off the excess length.


The cut off piece was to be used as a button band, cut in half and folded over.

Second cut was straight down the centre front.

img_05441.jpgThen I folded my button band ie the bottom of the t-shirt, over the cut edges of the centre front.  I was worried about stretching so sewed a piece of woven cotton from a men’s shirt as an interfacing.


I had to finish the top and bottom edges of the button band with a bit of hand sewing, but this fabric takes that well, the stitches almost sink into it.

It was still looking a bit masculine so I chose some feminine buttons from my stash to complete the cardigan.  Making the buttonholes was a bit traumatic as the band was quite thick and the button hole foot was reluctant to tackle it.


The cardigan is still quite plain looking and I am resisting the urge to add some colour.




Bonus feature – Using fabric to update bathroom drawers



I painted these MDF bathroom drawers and added fabric to the top and sides with diluted PVA.  The glue binds the fabric and there is no fraying whatsoever.

To protect the top I cut a piece of plastic (salvaged from another item of Ikea furniture) with a handsaw and glued that on, also with PVA, my new favourite liquid .


Scarf to shawl refashion

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This was such a simple project  I am not even sure it deserves the title of a refashion.

I found this scarf wrapped around a tree in my local park.

The label is ‘Old Navy’, made in China, and a quick look on the internet revealed the retail price was around $12.


I suppose someone had done the tree wrap thinking that the owner was more likely to notice it when next passing.  They did not get chance,  I saw it first.

After taking the scarf home and washing, I considered what to do with it.  It was a good size,  50 inches square, and the way the pattern was distributed around the edge would have made it a good candidate for  this treatment.

However the fabric was a very open weave, some kind of man made stuff, it was accurately described on the Old Navy website as gauze.  I thought that if I made something like a top out of it,  the result would be see through and the seams would be fragile.

I decided to add a few lines of stitching to make the scarf into a lightweight shawl type cover up, perfect for the transitional weather this month.


There was an inspiration piece, shown above.

I once pulled this simple white lacy top from the bargain bin of one of my usual charity shops, thinking the lace might be useful, but when I tried it on at home,  was pleasantly surprised and have worn it as is.  As you can see, this inspiration top is circular and my scarf is square but the general principle is the same.


I made a simple cut for the neck and turned it under twice for a hem (above) To make it more stable I added a line of fancy stitching (below)


Next I sewed a diagonal line from the corner inwards on each side, to give the suggestion of an armhole/sleeve.  The pattern on the scarf made this easy for me.


The result is not bad and does the job I had intended for it.  I like the pattern colours and it adds just enough warmth when the weather is a little chilly.  The lightweight gauzy fabric means the shawl can be rolled up quite small and carried around in a handbag.





The photo below shows the scarf close to the tree where I originally found it.


Bonus feature: Other scarves  have found

My usual source for items to refashion is charity shops but I am unashamed to say I have also picked up items from the street and even occasionally from bins.

There are 2 main reasons I refashion which are

  • I enjoy it as a hobby
  • I don’t like waste

Scarves don’t really wear out but people seem to drop them quite often

This top is one I have previously made from a scarf found on my way to work.


This one below I do wear as a scarf.  I was at the theatre when 15 min before the end of the show,  a couple rushed out early.  The scarf fell to the floor as they exited.  From several rows away I could not shout to them and disrupt the performance. At the end everyone else stepped over the scarf but I picked it up. Well if they left in a hurry they’re not going to come back for it are they?


Cruise wear to cool wear

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It was the generous meterage of fabric which first attracted me to this odd garment when I spotted it on a charity shop hanger.  I couldn’t work out what it actually was but £3 for this amount of fabric, unimpeded by few seams, seemed like a bargain not to pass up.

At home trying this contraption on, I wasn’t much the wiser.

Looking like palazzo pants with a wrap around skirt incorporated, you could also wear it as a sarong or halter neck dress.

It had a label ‘Moira C’, it’s 100% polyester, no country of origin, with a lot of small pretty purple flowers maybe violets?

I did some research and there is a video from Moira herself showing you how to wear this thing.  Apparently its ideal for cruises because of the unlimited food on offer you need clothes which are size flexible.  I’m mocking but actually I think I quite admire  Moira, a woman after my own heart.

Anyway, I was going to fabric harvest, and there was a lot of fabric, nearly 3 metres of it.

The plan was to make a top using the same pattern as in my previous post but sleeveless and with some gathers under the neckline band instead of bust darts, because I wanted to make something cool and loose to wear in the hot weather.

I slashed and spread at the neckline to make room for some gathers

The pattern was something of a dogs dinner once I had finished with it.

I was able to get the whole of the top out one of one leg of the pants, and with these pants there are 4 legs.

The fabric slipped and frayed quite a bit, it was a job for the walking foot.

I did have to neaten the seams in a rudimentary way.  Luckily I had left generous seam allowances and was able to fold each side of the allowance down then sew the sides together, it would have been better to use French seams in the first place.

Neatened seam allowances, I was afraid of fraying

The contrast neckband was made from ultra stiff Dutch wax, there was no way it needed any interfacing so I missed it out. I hope this stiff as a board fabric is going to loosen up once I’ve washed it a few times, which leads me to think that actually I probably should have washed it first before sewing, oh well, too late now.

Neckband back view

At first I thought it would be possible to use the pant ties as a kind of interfacing for the sleeves, but as they were not bias cut it didn’t work out, I had to cut them off and make some actual bias binding instead.

Cutting off this first attempt at sleeve binding meant what was left of the shoulders was perilously close to the neckband.



All, bar the hem, was done within one afternoon.


The gathers did give a bit of trouble, first attempt they were off to one side. I read later that you’re not supposed to use a walking foot for gathers, it squashes them, that’s probably what went wrong.  Actually they are still off a bit to one side but I’m not undoing them again.

I saw someone on the way to work wearing a top which had a straight hem at the front and a longer curved hem at the back, and decided to try out this hem idea for myself.

Side seam hemline detail


The hem is probably my favourite part of this top, and I referenced this method

from byhandlondon  to get the curved hem neat.  The inspiration top wasn’t quite as long at the back, but I’m happy with what I’ve got.

First stage of hemming, see how much this fabric frays
Finished hem, you can see the 2 lines of stitching where I missed folding exactly on the first set of stitches

I used a book as a tailors clapper when making the hem.

The weather in London is cooler now but I am off to Mykonos in September, hoping to wear the top there.





Men’s shirt refashion

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This shirt had been in my refashion pile for some time.

Once again its from Marks and Spencer, the fabric feels good quality, not too thin with a slightly silky feel to it, 100% cotton, made in Turkey.


I wanted to make a loose fitting top suitable for wearing in the recent hot weather.


The plan was to adapt this dress pattern, keeping as many seams from the shirt as possible.

I also wanted to add a contrast fabric for the neckline piece.  It was going to be one of those back of the shirt becomes the front adaptations.

The pattern pieces fit on the shirt pretty well.


I had been reading about darts and decided to keep the darts from the pattern,  this meant I couldn’t use the shirt side seams and that the front hem was now shorter than the back.


In RTW, darts are never in the right place for my shape, and from what I see on the street, its not just me.  The dart tutorials said to pull the end of the dart back 1 or 2 inches from the bust point, which I did, but looking at the finished photos, maybe not quite enough.

2 layers of neckline one layer of ‘interfacing’ attached with hemming tape

The contrast neck piece went on well.  It was supposed to have a layer of interfacing – which I didn’t have, but I used a plain piece of white fabric (from a different shirt) stabilised with a bit of hemming tape here and there, which worked.


The back of the blouse was supposed to have a zip inserted, but I had the buttons from the shirt.  The zip was supposed to go all the way to the top of the neck facing but I decided to leave that part open, this way I can get it on over my head and never actually need to undo the buttons.

I tried it on (actually I had already tried on many times, I believe in trying on a lot), and  wondered if sleeves would be a good idea or not – the pattern shows both sleeveless and with sleeves versions.

After sleeping on it, I went for the sleeves.

Here’s the finished blouse:



I am already thinking about making another like this only sleeveless, because I want to know how that would turn out, I like this contrast neckband arrangement, it gives a neat and eye catching finish.

I wore my new top while out trawling some local charity shops looking for items for future projects. I bought a men’s Hawaiian shirt and some fabric, which may or may not be intended for curtains.


On the next version I’m going to attempt some gathers under the neck piece or divide the dart into two and pull them out a bit more.





Another t-shirt tart up

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It looks blue in the photo but true colour is purple

I bought this t-shirt at the same car boot as the last refashion for the same price ie £1.50.

Again its from Marks and Spencer but the fabric is not 100% cotton there is a 3% elastane content and is quite lightweight.

The neck binding is narrower than the previous one.

I was inspired to try and re-create this refashion

Several fabrics were auditioned as possible bibs.  I toyed with the many doilies and embroidered mats in my collection, and some purple and gold Dutch wax, but eventually settled on this magpie printed stretch fabric.


Its more like trousers weight and possibly wouldn’t sag at the neck end of the bib, but mostly chose it because the magpie pattern looked best for a good contrast with the purple.

There were the same fit issues sorted in the same way as the first t-shirt tart up and I also cut the sleeves shorter.


A paper pattern got the size and placement of the bib right – I was making my neckline higher than the inspiration –  then I cut out the fabric shape adding seam allowances.

Now it looks to me like the inspiration re-fashion has been made by cutting a big U shape in the t-shirt, bias binding the complete new neckline edge, then sewing the bib on underneath.

I wanted to sew my bib to the t-shirt as the first step, not cut a big hole  – I was just worried that a t-shirt with a huge neckline cut into it would be difficult to keep in shape.

I hemmed the top of the bib then sewed it onto the t-shirt –  it looked quite good although this stored up trouble for later when it came to binding.


Because I sewed the bib on before binding the neckline, they do not line up perfectly, so I had to snip the neckline and fold it under a bit where it met the top of the bib.

A sleeve remnant cut up into a continuous strip was used like bias binding to bind the neck (but not the bib)- it looked OK.

Sleeve remnant cut into a strip for binding


Binding sewn onto to neck

There was still something lacking, so I went to the shops and bought a couple of metres of rick rack to outline the bib and cover up a bit of untidiness.

Couldn’t decide between the 2 types so bought both – they were cheap

Went with the red, white and blue, I liked it more and it was a bit wider.

This humble old fashioned trim did a decent job of outlining the bib and went round the U bend without any drama. I sewed it on using the walking foot to cope with the multiple layers, and abandoned pinning, just sewed very slowly.


There was some rick rack left over – should I trim the sleeves with it? – go on then.

Finally I cut off the excess t-shirt fabric from behind the bib.


Here’s the finished product:

I should have used purple for the bobbin thread instead of white when sewing the rick rack


Bonus feature – the out takes

Here are some of the alternative bib fabrics that failed the audition

Before buying the rick rack, I hand sewed on this cording from my stash.  I think it was originally the handle of a gift bag or something like that,  I see potential haberdashery items everywhere.  The colour was good but it was a bit too short and starting to unravel, and I wasn’t happy with the way it had gone on.  Sometimes commercial products developed over decades can work better than improvising with a gift bag handle.








T shirt tart up

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I bought this t-shirt from a local car boot sale.  I think it was £1.50.

I have a lot of patterned clothes, so needed some plain colours to go with the patterns, This was the idea behind my purchase.

Its  a standard 100% cotton Marks and Spencer Woman brand t-shirt, made in Bangladesh.  There were no tags but no visible wear.


The size was a little bigger than I normally wear so first thing was to take the waist in with a simple seam alteration.

The shoulders were also slightly large, making the neck hang too low.

Altered shoulder seams

To fix this I opened up the shoulder seams and re-sewed them taking an extra inch off.  The effect was to pull the neckline up to the desired height.

I sewed the new shoulder seams back onto the sleeves which left me with a little point where the shoulder seam met the sleeve.  Some tutorials suggest re-setting the sleeve but I found that in this case, smoothing out the point with a short line of stitching did the job satisfactorily.

Fixing the point created at the sleeve/shoulder join by the new shoulder seams

I also had to cut a half inch strip off the back of the neckline, including the ribbed binding, as there was now surplus fabric there

The new shoulder seams meant the back of the neck needed shortening

The sleeves were shortened by half and then a bit more.


Having been through a piping phase last year I am now going through a bit of a bias binding phase.


I had this square of fabric, given free with a magazine, which seemed to co-ordinate well with the colour of the t-shirt.  When I say I want plain coloured clothes I don’t mean completely plain, obviously.  The plan was to make bias binding with the patterned square and bind the sleeves and neckline. This was more or less the suggestion made by the magazine as a use for this free square of fabric, except they added a decorative pocket as well.

I used this  tutorial to make continuous bias binding from the square of fabric.


Binding the sleeves was quite straight forward.  I machine sewed it all and the 2nd line of stitching was in the ditch on the right side. Looking at this close up photo of the binding the ditch stitching looks really obvious but its actually not that noticeable when worn.  It did make me consider hand stitching from the wrong side next time though.


To bind the neckline I used  this tutorial which gives instructions how to machine sew the internal corner.

Here’s the finished product.  If I’m honest the neckline does seem to have slipped back down a bit, which I am blaming on not stretching the bias binding tight enough on the back of the neckline.


It was a simple project and I’m sure the newly revamped t-shirt will get a lot of wear.

Poster for upcoming Lambeth Show
At Josephine Avenue urban art fair