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Dress refashion – size matters

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I was given this dress last year.


Florence and Fred dress, 100% viscose


It came in a bag of clothing from the nursing home where my daughter works.  A member of staff had brought in some clothes  ‘in case any of the residents can make use of them’.

Relatives keep an eagle eye on the clothes their family members are wearing because the relatives buy the clothes,  and will spot any imposters immediately, making a negative judgement about the standards of care at the home.  This is how the dress found its way to me, because despite good intentions it was impossible to give it to anybody. The dress is 100% viscose,  no country of manufacture admitted to ( I would guess Bangladesh.)  Florence and Fred brand ie cheap to buy originally.

I normally avoid budget brands when I’m charity shopping because I’ve got a bit of a superior attitude, but I’m also unable to resist something for free, which usually triumphs over snobbery.

This dress doesn’t really know what it is meant to be.  The lightness of fabric could make it a summer dress but the navy pattern and long sleeves are more evening wear.  I am not even sure myself in which direction I am taking it –  maybe summer casual evening wear but definitely a better fit.


Bell sleeves

The bell sleeves are bang  on current trend,  but not for me.  I have tried them before in a previous decade and know they are rubbish.   I made an easy chop to make the sleeves elbow length.

Size matters

The size of this dress is UK 16.  I have measured myself against size charts and my body parts are usually 3 different sizes.  My bust is size 16, waist size 18 and hips size 14.  It is the waist/hips mismatch which causes me the most problems.   I have never had a particularly small waist and ageing has not improved the situation, however although this dress fits my bust size, the neck and shoulders are too big, a common problem for me.

I wanted to raise the neckline and add interest by sewing the cut off bell component of the sleeves onto the front of neck.  I hoped this would also keep the neck together a bit and prevent it slipping down my shoulders.

I pinned one of the sleeve frills onto the neck and it looked OK

I unpicked the original neck binding and re-sewed it back on to incorporate the sleeve frill, there was enough length of neck binding because I was making the neck smaller.


neckline in progress

I unpicked the binding on the keyhole fastening at the back and sewed up the seam, just to bring the neck together a bit more – I could still get the dress over my head quite easily.


Back fasten before


Back fasten after with binding removed and seam sewn up

The dress did look better and I was pleased with the neckline work, but was still more  short and flimsy than I would like, so with another chop it became a tunic length top.

I added side tab openings.


Finished tunic


Ideal holiday wear for a recent trip to Seville

Japanese Knot Bag

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I am 4 months into my ‘no new clothes year’ but I missed sewing,  you can’t really get that much sewing satisfaction from darning a pair of socks.

The bag was made from things I already had.

I found this tutorial for a Japanese knot bag and it was simple to construct in a few hours.

There’s a great bit of magic at the end when you turn the bag through a small hole on the short strap and it all comes together.


The main fabric was bought a couple of years ago in a local market, 6 yards of the stuff so I was glad to find a project to use some up.

The bag is reversible but I only used an old sheet for one side so that is always going to be the lining.


I added a pocket to both sides, before sewing up.  The main pocket used to be a ‘bib’ section of a t-shirt given to me by my daughter, and the inner pocket was cut from a pair of trousers bought at a jumble sale.


I didn’t bother downloading the pattern, you can see what the shapes are  and draw your own according to what size bag you want.

The next time I would make the bag shape a bit less round as it would hang better.


I am planning to use my bag on holidays when a handbag isn’t quite big enough.






Trousers made bigger / smaller

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I altered 3 pairs of trousers in different ways to improve the fit.



This black pair were: too flared, too wide in the waist.

These trousers were given to me for free.  The label on them has gone but they were from New Look, fairly thin fabric with some elastane content.

They are a basic pair of go with anything black work trousers.

The first step was a simple matter of reducing the flare via the inside leg seam, from the knee downwards.

I reduced the waist by increasing the seam at the middle of the back,  a fairly easy job because there was nothing to get in the way.20170118_1002371

When  I do an alteration like this, I always worry about going too far and making the thing too small,  because at work I want to stay comfortable, so the amount I took off the waist was quite modest.  It proved to be insufficient so I added some extra loops for the hooks (loops were made from shoe laces), so the fastening has two settings.


The second grey pair were from an old style jumble sale.  At the end of the sale there was a ‘fill a bag for a pound’ offer and these trousers were one of the components of my £1 bag.  They are Sainsbury’s own brand, ‘Tu’, and the fabric is synthetic herringbone style with no stretch whatsoever.


This pair did nothing for my ego because when I tried them on, I found they were:

Too flared, no problem, fixed in the same way as the black ones.

Too long, easily fixed by cutting off the excess and hand hemming.

Too tight in the leg above the knee.

Hmm,   As this fabric was strong and not going to fray I reinforced the serged seams by sewing along the base of the serger stitch and then unpicking both the main inside and outside leg seams to give me a few millimetres of extra room, which made the fit much better.

photo of leg seam before and diagram of after:



Unfortunately the waist was also too small.

Here I used a trick which always seems like magic to me:

Unpick most of the waistband, only leaving the edges near the zip opening still attached,  increase the waistband  size by up to 2 inches using, fabric cut from the trouser hem, re-attach the waistband and somehow even non-stretchy fabric on the  trouser will accommodate up to 2 inches of extra waist room.

It looks a bit scrappy but it works, and I always wear tops that cover the waistband so no-one will see the scrappiness.


The  third better quality ‘per una’ from Marks and Spencer 97% cotton 3% elastane.  I paid very little, something like £1.50 from a local charity shop, and they didn’t look worn at all.  I decided to take a chance on the rather odd colour, described as ‘deep magenta’.


They were too long, easily fixed, and too big in the waist, which I also thought would be easily fixed.


The waistband was complicated by pockets and decorative straps with buttons, but I successfully unpicked it, made it a bit smaller with some folding, made the trousers smaller by increasing the centre  back seam, and re-attached the waistband, job done, or so I thought.

When I wore these trousers on a short test run to the shops, they were not right.  The waist to crotch length was too long.

I messed about with the crotch seams but nothing worked.  A google search revealed that the waist to crotch length needs to be reduced from the waist end.

This pair of trousers sat in my refashion pile for several months.  I considered turning them into a skirt, then I took them out and bit the bullet and unpicked the whole waistband and re-pinned it to the top of the trousers.  I didn’t cut any fabric off the top of the trousers , but instead of half a centimetre of trouser top being sewn inside the waistband,  the top of the trousers now goes to right to the top of the waistband, taking a couple of cm off the waist to crotch length, and making the waistband somewhat stiffer than before.


I also added a couple of extra shoelace loops like on the black pair so I could fasten them tighter.  I hope that finally does it, what I thought would be a fast fix turned into a something of a saga.

Bonus feature :  Use it up and wear it out in 2017

It is my intention not to buy any more clothing for 1 year.

This was meant to be a new year resolution but when I thought back, I hadn’t actually bought anything new since 15th Oct so my year starts then, and I would rather call it a ‘use it up and wear it out’ theme than a resolution.

The point of this pledge is not to save money, or the planet, but to reduce the size of 0f my wardrobe by wearing out and then discarding what I already have, and if I do really need something I will buy it.

When I think about this, there are actually only a handful of clothes that I can remember throwing away in the last 12 months because they were worn out – some underwear, a couple of pairs of trousers and t-shirts, but not much.  Does modern clothing deserve more credit than its ‘fast and disposable’ image?










Refashioned Denim top with pocket

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Denim is one of my favourite fabrics to refashion.  It improves with age, and jeans have pockets and other details which can come in so useful.  Denim also goes well with almost any other fabric, in fact it looks better when combined with other colours and patterns.

I have no before photos for the above top but really I just used the before items as fabric.  The front came from 2 pairs of jeans, obviously, both fairly lightweight denim with 2% elastane .  In fact I made a mistake with the pattern and forgot to flip it over when cutting out the second half, I had intended to use only one pair of jeans.

The sleeves were made from erm.. a girl’s dress which I found in the street. People here often leave things spread out on their garden walls as free stuff for others to take  –  its a stretchy knitted fabric. Other items that were left out were mainly toys.  They would probably be surprised if they knew the eventual fate of the dress!

The back of the top actually was fabric, 100% cotton bought from a local market.

The top was based on this pattern which I have used before


Bonus feature:

I was delighted to see some vintage linens feature in the Turner prize this year.


This entry by Helen Marten was the eventual winner.




Jumper to body warmer refashion

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20161111_091507-11This sweater came from the other side of the wardrobe and was beng discarded because of the rather large hole near the hem.


It was good quality 100 % wool from Marks and Spencer, made in Madagascar. I don’t think I stuck to those ‘wash inside out’ instructions.


I liked the colour, which they are calling ‘denim’ and was not about to let it go to waste.

First stage was to cut off the bottom of the jumper to get rid of the hole.  The jumper had been well worn and was somewhat felted so it didn’t fray during the surgery.


I also cut off the sleeves and the ribbing from the back of the neck, this left over-sized armholes which meant the sides had to be stitched up higher into the armpit, reducing the width in the bust area, and making the top more snug by accident rather than design.

This left the length a bit short so I used some fabric from my stash, which used to be a shirt, to add a tabbed panel to make a new co-ordinating hemline and add some length.  I left the former shirt buttons in place for detail.


I also used the former shirt to make a facing for the back of the neck.


Finally I salvaged intact parts of the hemline rib folded over, to bind the armholes, the idea being to make it look like the neckline ribbing.  This was the trickiest part of the project, I was worried about the binding gaping so stretched it out quite a lot but it still ended up a little too wide on the outer edge.

The finished article:



The wool is quite soft and comfy enough to be worn either next to the skin or over a light shirt.




Bonus feature

I spent a happy evening home alone making christmas tree decorations from scraps.




Long skirt to top refashion

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I bought this long skirt because I was attracted to the large amount of fabric and attractive border and it cost me £3.49, which was 10% of the original, still attached, price tag of £35.


The fabric was 100% polyester and there was a short gauzy white underskirt which I ended up using for facings.



My plan was to make a top, using a pattern given to me by a friend, incorporating the border of the skirt and the original hem.

The fabric was very light and floaty and the brand was ‘Glamorous’, one I had never heard of.  I looked it up and it appears to be an online shop of the type that claims to offer massive discounts. I don’t think that glamorous would have been my first choice of description for the original skirt though.


When I started cutting the pattern pieces out, it became obvious that this fabric was trouble.  It slipped and frayed all over the place,  even after weighing  it down in every place possible.

My newly and expensively purchased ‘walking foot’ did help in the actual sewing though.


Here is the finished top.  It will be good for travelling light because it takes up only the space of a light scarf and doesn’t really crease.



Bonus feature: Refashionables in Modern Art


On a recent trip to Tate Liverpool I was drawn to the above exhibit by Michelangelo Pistoletto  entitled  ‘Venus of the rags’ .  The description describes the mound of clothes as  ‘the detritus of modern society’ but I was thinking ‘that looks like a rather nice vintage scarf’











22 inch waist scuba skirt to 2 hour top refashion

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Rather guiltily I went into my local Traid as they were having a sale (again).  I think they were trying to get rid of all their summer stuff.

Why the guilt?  Because to be honest, I already have enough clothes and could probably afford go a year or two without buying anything at all, but the trouble is I like making things so am now regarding refashioning as a fairly harmless hobby but nevertheless gave myself strict orders that I could only buy one thing.


My eye was drawn to this skirt.  I liked the pale turquoise colour and also the fabric was a nice light scuba jersey knit, quite with a sort of shiny finish. This fabric was excellent to work with and scuba is certainly something I will be on the look out for in the future.



The amazing thing about this skirt was the teeny size of the waist.  It was 22 inches (I measured it later).  I don’t know anyone with a waist that small, and clearly there was no great demand for skirts in that size because it was brand new with labels.

This was the only way I could wear it.


I could see that despite the small waist size, the large pleats meant there was actually a decent amount of fabric in there, enough to make a top anyway.  The sales assistant gave me a funny look as I handed over £3.

I gave this skirt a wash using my usual cycle before attempting a refashion, it seemed to survive OK.  The wash was also necessary because there were a couple of dusty footprints on the skirt.  It had obviously fallen off the hanger a few times and been trodden on.


I removed the offending waistband to reveal a 56 inch wide tube of fabric.

There was also a nice organza lining in a matching colour.

I downloaded the 2 hour top pattern from sewdifferent.  This is a simple pattern with just 2 pieces to make a raglan top

2 hour top FREE sewing pattern – Step-by-step tutorial

Actually wordpress, the link does work.

I took the precaution of making a toile from a sheet to check the fit – I wouldn’t want to go wasting a £3 charity shop skirt now would I?

The fit was good but I added a couple of inches to the body length and removed an inch or so from the sleeve length.

Sadly there wasn’t really enough fabric to make the whole thing from the skirt.  I could have compromised a bit on the along the grain layout and patched a bit to make it fit, but I decided to instead use a contrast fabric for the sleeves.


I bought this lovely fabric on a recent trip to Norway when finding myself with about £12 in Kroner left over, and thinking that it was unlikely I would return to Norway anytime soon – no offence intended to Norway, I was just being realistic,  I went into a fabric shop to see what I could buy with that sort of money.  It was also jersey and a similar weight to the skirt fabric.

I think it looks like some kind of background wallpaper photo on a phone.

I made binding for the neckline from the skirt remains. The stretch in the fabric meant I could cut a less than 45 degree angle, and make sufficient binding with less fabric, and bound the hem with the contrast fabric.20160926_1922351


The fabrics were a stretch jersey so I used a narrow zig zag stitch throughout, as I don’t have a serger.  This worked surprisingly well.

The pattern instructions don’t tell you that there are no seam allowances included so it is up to you to work out where these are needed (everywhere except neck and hem) and add your chosen allowance accordingly when cutting out.

I only discovered this when reading the comments on the blog about the pattern.


Now a word about scuba fabric, which I have read up about since making this top  It behaves very well under the needle and drapes smoothly.  It also, apparently does not fray at all and when I made this top I thought it would look very nice without any hem but wasn’t quite brave enough to leave it like that. Information I have also found says that scuba does not breathe at all … UH OH.  I will have to see how sweaty this fabric is IRL as a top.






Although I was only supposed to be buying one item in Traid, I was amazed to find this beautifully hand crafted unworn dress.

It was originally priced at £18.99 but was now reduced to £3.

Someone had put hours of work into this dress, it was lined and had these lovely bows on the front and then they had donated it, why would they do that? and all their hard work was being sold for £3. I had to rescue it.


I have no idea what I am going to do with this dress but will try and find something to do it justice.