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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



Tablecloth to trousers refashion

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Having already made a circular skirt from the middle of this tablecloth


I found there was enough left over to make a pair of trousers from the edges – it was a big piece of fabric.


I used a pattern I had already perfected for fit but omitted the pockets and changed the fly closure to a side zip.

The weave of the fabric was fairly loose which makes the trousers quite a light summer weight.


There’s still some tablecloth left over, and I am pretty determined to make something else with it.


Bonus feature – Golden Hands

In my local charity shop I noticed a set of red binders containing Golden Hands magazines, a weekly 1970’s series that my mother used to collect.


The magazines have lovely articles about sewing, knitting, embroidery, macramé, crochet and probably several other crafts I have missed out.


They are seventies beauties and I a joy to read through.


I bought the lot.





Rucksack replicated

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I’ve had a lot of use out of this rucksack.  It’s travelled many miles with me but after 2 repairs already is now coming to the end.

I decided to sew a new one, which would make a good project for using stash items.

I made some pattern pieces from drawing and measuring round the old rucksack.


I am a fan of denim and something of a denim hoarder,  finding it hard to pass by a good looking pair of jeans in a bin for instance, so denim was always going to feature, including my signature double pocket pocket.  The other main fabric was a thinner synthetic zebra print from a weird coat dress.

It became a stash busting fest, as I also used some Dutch wax for lining, an old felted jumper for padding the back and straps, and a checked shirt for bias binding.


The only new item was the zip as I didn’t have one sturdy and long enough.  I really should have used the zip from the old rucksack but didn’t want to be in a no rucksack at all situation.

The design was simplified by making only one compartment, and by making fixed straps. I tried the rucksack on with and without a jumper and the fit seemed good.

My walking foot was essential for sewing through several thick layers of fabric, which it managed to do quite impressively.


Unusually for me I decided to tidy up the bag interior by bias binding the seams, and it did improve the look.


I did prepare a carrying handle but haven’t added this yet, partly because I saw someone with a 2 handled version on my way to work which looked good and I was going to copy that but now am not sure and will try the bag without a hanging strap – it was mainly the dangling adjustable straps that got in the way of carrying my old one by the shoulder straps and as this bag doesn’t have them, carrying by the shoulder straps may be a better experience.

Logo t-shirt fix

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It was with something of a sentimentally heavy heart that I pulled this t-shirt out to refashion.


I was given it when working as a swimming judge in 2006 and my qualification has now lapsed, so the reality is its a t-shirt I have never worn and had largely forgotten about why am I keeping it?

There were 3 problems

The length, the neck, the logo.

It was a cheap thin cotton type shirt made from a tube without side seams.

I cut off the neck band which immediately released the neckline to a much better size.


About 5cm was also cut off the hem to reduce the length, and re-hemmed using a twin needle.


The strip cut from the hem made an ideal new neckband.


This scarf, a long time in my refashion pile was such a bright colour it could only go with something very plain.  It was the exact right size to cover the logo and 3 sides of this slippery fabric were already hemmed.


I considered gathering the scarf in some way to use more of its length but rejected this idea and just sewed on over the top of the logo.

I cut a length of scarf to cover the logo, hemmed the edge and sewed it in place.


There was something not quite right. I probably hadn’t sewn close enough to the edge of the scarf.

Trialling some fancy stitches to see if there was something suitable to fill the gap I selected one, realising that if this looked wrong there would be no unpicking it, too many threads.  Learning from past mistakes I know that some of these stitches can pucker up fabric which is a bit thin.

Thankfully it looked better, it sort of nailed the scarf to the t-shirt.


Finished t-shirt, I cut the t-shirt fabric from under the scarf panel.


Its maybe not my best make but still wearable.



Bonus feature: tailor’s clapper

Looking around the internet I noticed a feature about ironing seams using a tailor’s clapper – something I had never heard of, it’s basically just a shaped piece of wood.

In a nutshell, the article said that if you sit the clapper over a steamed crease for a few seconds the crease will be very long lasting, works for all fabrics.

This sounded too good be true but easy to test.  I didn’t have a piece of wood but I do have a lot of books, and tested it out with the slippery scarf seam and a medium sized medium weight book.  I can happily report that it worked like a dream.

Try it next time you’re ironing a crease.



Birthday present dress to skirt refashion

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Bad hair day


I was given this dress as a present because I  had asked for charity shop items to refashion.

It’s per una by Marks and Spencer, a label I was quite fond of in the days when I mostly went to shops to buy new clothes, fabric was 100% linen, made in Turkey,   I really liked the colours.

The fit wasn’t too bad and I considered just shortening it but the before photos convinced me otherwise.

My daughter had said when she handed it over ‘I thought you could make it into a skirt’

I must confess I am a little reluctant to be told what to do, even by my own family, and wondered if I could attach a new top section and keep it as a dress.

However, the current design consisted of several bias cut panels, sewn together in a sort of twisted arrangement, which produced a nice drape.  Changing the top section may have been too much to handle, so a skirt it was.

The first cut was to lop off the top section. I made this high because the second cut was another strip to make a waistband.


I cut another strip off to make the waistband out of, choosing where to cut by where the seams holding the panels together had fallen.


There is a skirt which I use as a ‘gold standard’ for length and waist measurements.


By laying the two side by side it was clear that the waist needed to be a little smaller, but how to sew the seam exactly? Wishing to minimise any effect on the width and drape of the hemline, I used the full adjustment at the waist and tapered to meet the original seam halfway to the hem.

I cut a piece of thin cotton with no stretch to use as interfacing for the waistband and inserted a zip and button closure into one of the side seams.


The zip wasn’t an invisible one.  I like to use the method here  which involves sewing the zip in with the seam closed then ripping it open to expose the teeth.

Finished skirt:


And a couple of photos of it being worn on a recent trip to Milan.

This jasmine covered wall smelled wonderful


Taking a break from sightseeing in Milan


Polka dot dress to trousers

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This dress was a birthday present, I had asked for charity shop items to refashion.  One daughter presented me with this Marks and Spencer  dress.  Having someone else choose something for me added to the challenge and the fun.

The fashion pages tell me that polka dots are in this year so these navy and white ones were a good choice.

The 100% viscose seemed to be perfect for some lightweight summer trousers.  The fabric frayed heavily though,  needing generous seam allowances.


I used this pattern, given free with a magazine as the basis for my make, adapting it to be a side zip fasten with a flat front.

It was a good pattern to adapt,  the trouser legs being composed of 4 parts and the centre seams making fit adjustments easy.  (I made a toile shorts version to check the fit)

The skirt of the dress had large expanses of fabric but, not enough to accommodate all the pattern elements without some piecing together.

After spending some time struggling with the logistics of how it was all going to work, I  started cutting the most important pieces from the best bits of fabric to see where that led me. Polka dot matching wasn’t always possible.


Even after harvesting every possible part of the dress, including the sleeves, there was still not quite enough – trousers take a lot of fabric.

To make up the deficiency, and for the waistband, I used some Dutch wax which I have had for ages and has already featured in many previous projects basically because there was so much of it in the first place.  I made the waistband quite big and added a small amount of light elastic, comfort is important to me!


Introducing the second fabric introduced the complication of fabric symmetry.

There were so many pieces involved I approached it by cutting one leg then matching the second leg up with that.

The front and back legs were different as you can see here.



I liked this pattern and will be using it again soon.  The trousers are indeed lightweight and also very comfortable.



Tablecloth to circular skirt

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I bought this tablecloth in my local Oxfam, and as you can see it cost £14.99.  Wouldn’t normally have paid so much but could see there was a lot of fabric and I had a definite project in mind.

The fabric was a loose weave 100% cotton with a batik style pattern, made in India.  It was very nice and in good condition, I can’t imagine why someone would have wanted to get rid of it.


I bought it to make some trousers, but in the shop the cloth was folded up and it wasn’t obvious that the pattern radiated from a circle in the centre, and was therefore crying out to be made into a circular skirt.

In the past I have attempted a circular skirt but messed up the cutting out, quite upsetting.  This time it was almost impossible to mess up the cutting because I could just follow the pattern on the cloth, no folding or seams necessary.


Once the inner circle had been cut out, as it was on the bias it began to grow.  I had read about this and allowed a couple of inches for it but even that was insufficient for the growing capacity of this fabric.

Adding the waistband did seem to reduce the waist size a couple of inches but not enough.  I gave up and inserted some fairly insubstantial elastic inside it to take up the remaining slack.


In future if making another circular skirt ( I like this one so highly likely) I will cut a very small waist to start with and work from there.  Worst case scenario will be that the waist has to be enlarged a bit and the skirt ends up a bit shorter.

Only thing left was the hem.  This hem was miles long and probably the biggest job of the whole make.  Fortunately the fabric responded well to  steam so the hem could be turned up into shape and maintain the curve of the hem.



The whole skirt was finished in an afternoon, and that included going to the shops to buy the elastic.






And guess what? – there was still enough fabric left to make trousers from the edges, in fact they are already made, blog post to follow soon. It was a very big tablecloth so maybe £14.99 was a bargain after all.

Bonus feature – camera case

I bought a new camera but there was no case, so I made one – it involved a lot of hand sewing.