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t-shirt Refashion of 4 Franken Frankies

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Using the Tilly and the Buttons Frankie t-shirt pattern I made up 4 different t-shirts, each one from discarded fabric. I volunteer at a local charity shop and we receive many garments which can not be sold, such as souvenir t-shirts from various corporate and sporting events. We can also not sell all we receive in donations because of the sheer volume and these excess donations are sold in bulk as ‘rags’ at £4 per bin bag full.

Its actually quite upsetting to see so many clothes going down this route and I decided to use some unsaleable t-shirts to make into new Tilly and the buttons Frankie’s. I bought several large t-shirts which would have otherwise have gone in the rag bags.

The Frankie pattern is a raglan t-shirt with a curved hem and various sleeve length options. It lends itself to colour blocking with the sleeves and neckband. I got this pattern from the Christmas edition of Love Sewing magazine as a PDF.

Like all Tilly patterns, there are comprehensive instructions, for example when she says ‘use a short zig-zag stitch’ the actual machine settings are given.

The first version was made from burgandy t-shirt from the brand Apricot, which I had never heard of but was surprised to see it was made in the UK. I thought it was a large men’s but on closer examination it was actually a ladies extra small! I tried it on and was conflicted about whether or not to go ahead with the re-fashion because it looked OK as it was.

The sleeves were to be made from a bright orange running top which had been given to competitors in a particular race in 2019. We get a lot of this type of donation as it is common practice when you enter one of these type of races that you are given a souvenir top but I suppose if you are a regular runner you don’t need them all.

The maroon fabric was thin jersey with a lot of stretch, the orange running top had less stretch which made fitting the neckband slightly tricky.

The maroon t-shirt was quite long and I was able to fit all of the pattern body pieces into it, whereas the running top made 3/4 length sleeves once the logo had been eliminated, and I used the original t-shirt hem for the sleeve hems.

The 2nd Franken Frankie was made from a George from ASDA pale green and white striped body in size large and an olive uniqulo sized medium for the sleeves. The olive t-shirt, being a medium size, was not quite large enough to fit the sleeve head pattern onto so I had to cut the sleeves on the cross grain and hem them myself. The striped t-shirt wasn’t long enough for the whole length of the body pattern pieces so I used the original t-shirt straight hem.

I didn’t take before pictures but you know what a t-shirt looks like.

I gave this one to my co-worker at the charity shop. I was quite pleased with the plain and stripe combination but wish I hadn’t cut the sleeves on the cross grain as they ended at an awkward elbow length.

The third Frankie was made from a barely worn M&S plain white t-shirt body and cedar wood state t-shirt sleeves, also made for a friend. I believe cedar wood state is a Primark brand, we get a lot of those.

I think this is my favourite, I was really nailing this pattern by now. Once again the hems of both sleeves and body is the original t-shirt one.

The fourth Frankie was made from actual fabric body, I bought this medium weight inoffensive grey jersey in Fabric Land in Bristol last year.

The sleeves were made from this Top Man paint spatter effect t-shirt which was given to me some time ago.

I think the combination also works well but neither fabric has that much stretch so its a tight fit to get it over my head.

I didn’t get a photo of me modelling the green one but here are some photos of the others.

I haven’t finished with this pattern yet and have a 5th t-shirt planned to make for a friend, but a smaller size 2 friend and I’m reluctant to cut the pattern down and haven’t got round to tracing it out either.

This pattern is now my go to raglan t-shirt one, I can make it up in a couple of hours, and I love the way it can be made so easily from fabric which would otherwise go to rags. Thanks Tilly!

Bonus feature

I had steamed a phase eight grey wool jumper and was about to put it out for sale in the charity shop I volunteer at when my co-worker spotted 2 holes. We don’t sell garments with holes so I took it home and did a spot of decorative mending.

The finger is there for size comparison, I don’t think you wouldn’t be able to spot the mending!

Suede jacket to slipper boots refashion

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Browsing in the £1 skip in a local charity shop I spotted a new suede jacket in a lovely duck egg blue.

However…. there was a catch, it was dirty, not from wear but dust soiled from storage, hence the low price.

I felt obliged to rescue it. It was from Marks and Spencer but not in my size, the plan was never to wear it but to make something from it – this jacket deserved a better fate than landfill. I know, I know, everything eventually goes to landfill but this seemed like a good opportunity to try a near zero risk leather project, the exact nature of which was as yet undecided.

It had to be cleaned somehow and cheaply. My default modus operandi is stick it in the washing machine on the usual cycle and see what happens but this time I cut a piece of sleeve off and hand washed it first – this went well, instilling sufficient confidence to shove the remaining parts of the jacket in the machine on a gentle cycle – this went slightly less well but not a disaster – and by this I mean that most of the worst of the dirt had gone but the suede was not quite as soft and buttery as before, it had gone a bit stiff and there were a few creases.

Via Love sewing magazine I acquired a pattern for Tilly and the buttons slipper boots. I did need some more slipper boots, suede would surely be a good fabric to make them from.

The jacket was made of panels and curved seams, these would have be incorporated into the pattern pieces. There was only just enough to make the slipper boots even after unpicking every possible seam. I couldn’t afford not to use the sections including the jacket pockets for example, and following grain lines never even came into it.

I was actually surprised how clean the suede was looking, once ironed on the wrong side it looked nicer and became more supple.

For the lining I used a leopard print scarf, inspired by the photos included in the instructions which showed a leopard print lining.

Suede was in meagre supply and I was obliged to unpick some top stitching embellishments which left holes, but that didn’t bother me as this was a low key project and a first try with a new material.

I did have a look for some suede and leather tips and already knew not to use pins but didn’t buy any special needles or thread, I did however increase my stitch length to 3.5 as recommended.

The suede sewed up really nicely. It seemed so have softened back to its prewashing softness from being handled. The jacket had narrow seam allowances which is possible and desirable with suede to conserve material. If I’d really wanted to I could have taken a narrower seam allowance with the suede but that would have thrown the sizing out and complicated matters.

In the above photo you can see the pockets which had to be sewn closed.

The feed dogs on my machine weren’t particularly keen on the thick scarf / suede combo on the soles, and I probably should have fitted the walking foot.

Shortly after this point I stopped paying much attention to the pattern instructions thinking I knew what to do, which lead to some unpicking and cursing.

Another point I want to make here is the mistake which it is to trim seam allowances before you are sure everything is correct. I much prefer to leave the seam allowances intact as long as possible, but pattern instructions do not anticipate our potential mistakes and always urge immediate seam allowance trimming or finishing.

I also find that after wearing a garment a few times there may be some extra small alterations to make so prefer not to finish seams and keep the full seam allowance intact until I am sure of the fit.

I added the fringe from the scarf as a stylish but impractical embellishment.

The boots do tend to sag in the ankle area and the sole is a bit too big, I may go back in and make it smaller especially around the toe, but overall quite a satisfying low risk experimental project.

Threadcount ultimate sweater set TC1912

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Along with my Love Sewing Magazine this month came the above pattern. This was fortuitous because I had recently bought some knitted fabric (on a trip to Walthamstow) and jumpers are actually something I was short of.

This fabric was like nothing I had ever used before. It was a rib knit as in it looked like hand knitting but on a smaller scale. I had no idea how it was going to behave during the cutting out or sewing. At the bargain price of £5 per metre and I had bought only 1 metre.

My first ‘session’ with a pattern is always cutting out the pattern pieces and deciding what size to make or more truthfully deciding the exact mish mash of sizes for shoulders, bust and waist and if a full bust adjustment is needed.

Sizing decisions are based on comparing the pattern pieces with other garments I have sewn, measuring the sizes of the pattern pieces, looking at the fit on the pattern model.

In this instance for comparison I used a RTW jumper in a similar rib fabric which was a bit smaller and a bit shorter than I wanted the new one to be.

The pattern required fabric with 75% stretch, which mine had. This means when you lay the fabric out you are scared of over stretching it or stretching it unevenly before the cutting starts. The pattern calls for 1.5m of fabric, and from laying the pattern pieces on the fabric I could see I didn’t really have enough. The measurements on the pattern packet put me in a size L but due to lack of fabric , comments from the pattern tester in the magazine, and the size of the pattern pieces, I decide to cut a straight size M and trust that the large stretch element in the fabric would accommodate everything. Due to lack of fabric I had to divide the sleeve piece into 2 sections and cut the cuff end out on the cross grain. The neck piece also had to be about and inch smaller than the pattern.

Sewing up was quick and easy, with a narrow zig zag stitch for the main seams and a wide zig-zag for the seam finishes. There was no pressing involved with this type of fabric which speeds things up.

The whole thing was done in about 4 hours which counts as super quick for me.

There was practically no waste fabric, so little there was nothing at all worth saving .

The fit is everything I had hoped for, perfect length and no size issues, I may use this type of fabric again just because there is no sizing drama

Jumpers could be the way forward in 2020.

I think the only question mark over this make is the hem, it may stretch out.

Wilder top

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This post is going to be short because its much the same as the previous one. Same pattern, different view, different fabric.

After watching a few blogs I went to Walthamstow on a fabric shopping trip. There were lots of shops and I didn’t even get to all them, ran out of time. Prices were very reasonable. You can even get 50p per metre and I will be back soon.

I told myself I’d reached the stage where I need to stop being attracted to the lovely patterned fabric and get myself some easy to wear plains. Trouble is this type of plain fabric often looks like the most boring one in the shop, and this £2 per metre viscose, a rich olive green with dandelion heads and pink leaves, was too difficult to resist.

I made a Wilder top, with a 2 inch full bust adjustment. The top was a much easier and quicker sew than the dress.

The sleeves as drafted in the pattern are not quite full length and I was going to concoct some sort of gathering at the wrist end as many others already have, but have now decided its not needed. The viscose is very slippy and comfortable.

The fabric does suit this top very well and will be a perfect marriage with the yet to be made plain black trousers which are on my must sew soon list. I used 1.5 metres to make the top so total cost £3. This is great but when I started sewing a major goal ( of several) was to save the planet by using second hand fabric. Now I have a growing fabric stash and more than enough clothes. Re-think needed.

Wilder gown – Friday pattern company

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The Wilder gown has been a great hit this summer, I was seeing it everywhere in all types of fabric and on all types of bodies. I scoffed and initially thought ‘fashion victims’

I attended a local car boot sale and noticed one seller had some fabric hidden among various items of bedding and other clothing. Whenever I see fabric for sale in unlikely places like this, it makes my heart sing and at only £2 for just over 3 metres it was mine. I asked the seller what her plans had been and she told me she bought the fabric some time ago and never got round to making anything – I’ve got a few fabrics myself that could tell that sort of tale if they could talk, but they’ll be staying with me for now.

I like the fabric, not too boring, not too flamboyant, the sort of design you could wear in a large garment. Its some sort of man made stuff, light with a lot of drape but not transparent and something of a frayer. I had to admit that the perfect garment would be the Wilder gown, so £20 later a paper copy of the pattern arrived.

I chose to make the size L but given the amount of ease in this garment any size would probably have been OK. The pattern envelope recommended 3.5 metres of fabric and I didn’t have quite enough but as I am only 5’3″ and didn’t want to make a floor length dress, I hoped this would do, and it did, though with not much left over. I took about 2 inches off the length of the skirt rectangle pieces. That’s the beauty of this pattern, you can adapt it to suit the fabric you have.

Bodice sewn together before ties added

The bodice pieces are not large and could be made from quite a small amount of fabric. The pattern tetris seems to give little waste. On the first day the bodice was cut out and sewn together. I tried it on and the fit seemed good though it was difficult to tell without the neck ties.

The second day I assessed how much fabric was left and made the first tier of the skirt and the tie. The pattern pieces give a tip to rip the rectangles rather than cutting them.

I tried this on a scrap piece of fabric and it seemed to work, and as my fabric was a slippy frayer I went for it with the ripping. Its actually seems more accurate and a method I’d use again but does require some courage. The fabric puckered slightly at the ripped edge but was easily smoothed out again by hand.

The gathering and first layer attachment were unremarkable and with the tie added now looked like a Wilder tunic

Gathering the final tier was a challenge. Its a lot of gathering to pull through one length of thread and I was worried that my thread would snap and I would have to start all over again.

Trying to to get a grip on the final tier gathering, laying it flat first

As an exercise and for fun I used as many different seam finishes as I could think of. The bodice pieces were finished with zig zag stitch or overlock stitch. The skirt rectangles were stitched together with French seams and the gathered edges were bound, I also used binding as a facing for the hem to preserve skirt length.

Here is my daughter modelling the gown for me.

If I make it again, and I probably will, I would add about 1 inch to the bodice length as I think it would drape more flatteringly at that length, and would change the sleeves, maybe make them longer and have elastic at the cuff.

Overall I’m pleased with how this turned out and my only criticism would be that the sleeves join the bodice quite low down which means the gown lifts up quite a lot if you lift your arms up.

Although I’ve missed the boat for wearing this as a summer dress, there is plenty of room for vests and leggings underneath for warmth and winter wear.


Betty dress Love sewing mag in green gingham

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This is how the model looked in a linen version of the Betty shirt dress from Love Sewing magazine. I made this up in a green gingham hoping that it wouldn’t turn out looking too much like a school dress.

The pattern is included in issue 68 of Love Sewing magazine, the instructions being in the mag and you download and print the PDF file from their website, and it’s designed by Fiona Hesford of Sewgirl.

This is how my version turned out.

The gingham was bought locally with this dress in mind. It’s 100% cotton, slightly thicker and softer than school dress fabric and the squares might be a bit larger. I specifically wanted to make it to wear on holiday in Greece so it had to be cool and loose and I loved the pockets.

The bodice design is similar to my previous make with no actual sleeve pieces so avoiding all those fit issues. There are no bust darts which concerned me slightly because the model appears to have a small bust and I was worried how this would work out for my body shape.

The skirt is softly gathered with patch pockets and has a shirt tail type hem.

I had a go at pattern matching but there were a lot of lines to match up

I printed out the pattern pieces and mulled over which size to make.

The armholes were large, no problems there, the V neck looked about right too. I cut size 16 bodice, 18 waist and 14 hips, probably could have shortened the bodice length a cm or two and used a size 14 on the shoulders.

I wanted a dress which had a lot of room in it and that’s how the fit turned out.

To check the fit, as always, I machine basted the bodice pieces together and tried it on. All seemed OK and at that point I realised the dress would pull on over my head, which meant I could sew the button placket shut an use some large buttons from my stash, last seen on a corduroy jacket.

The buttons would probably have been too large to fit in the buttonhole foot but as they were only there for show I just sewed them on and I doubt many people would notice there wasn’t an actual button hole.

I missed out the self tie belt, as am not a fan of belts.

This dress turned out to be everything I had hoped for in a holiday dress and it got worn for several evenings out to dinner on the Greek island of Paros. The weather was 20 – 25 degrees in the evening and not too humid which was perfect for eating outside.

This bodice design is devoid of any fit issues but does result in excess fabric around the shoulder area. Its not something that worries me too much and the extra fabric almost seems to fold itself into a bust dart shape quite neatly during wear.

Pattern review Lovesewingmag retro revival dress

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I have a subscription to Love Sewing magazine and have started making some of the patterns. You always get 2 paper patterns, one of which is McCalls, but there are also 2 or 3 others which are PDF only from the website with the instructions being in the magazine.

Anyone can use the PDF’s for the price of your email address, and sewists with some experience could work out how to put them together without the instructions so I urge you to check them out.

This one from the recent issue 70 looked like my kind of style and I bought this cotton fabric from a local shop. The recommended fabric was linen. Stated requirements were 2.4m which was about right.

A medium weight cotton with spider webs – it was on sale and I suspect originally meant for some kind of childrens’ halloween costume. The actual colour is purple although it looks more like blue here.

The point of this dress is ‘learn a new skill, fabric covered buttons’. The button placket is not functional as there is a zip all the way down the back of the dress.

I printed out the 30+ pages of pattern and stuck them together. This was a big job in itself but using another tip from Love Sewing I held the pieces of paper up to a window and matched up the lines of the pattern pieces rather than cut off the edges of all the sheets. The accuracy of the sticking seemed to be improved using this method.

The sleeve is a batwing/dolman/grown on type, not sure of the correct term ie there are no separate sleeve pieces. The bodice has waist and bust darts. The bust darts didn’t print out properly but it was obvious by the shape of the pattern pieces and extra length on the front bodice that they were meant to be there.

I also find its a really good idea to take a close look at the fit on the model in the picture. The model will usually be slimmer and taller than myself so any fit issues I can spot on her will be the same on me plus some.

Areas to especially look hard at are the shoulders do they look dropped? ( I don’t like dropped shoulders), the how tight are the arms, how low is the neck, in this case I thought the bodice looked a bit long on the model and removed 1cm from the length of the pattern accordingly, I also made the neck a little lower.

Whilst knowing that making a toile is a good idea and have made them for some projects in the past, I mostly can’t be bothered. I do however want a good fit as much as the next person so my answer to this dilemma is to cut pattern pieces, erring on the side of big , machine tack them together, try on, and consider any appropriate fitting adjustments from the tacked garment before sewing together properly. In this instance I was able to take a further 1cm off the bodice length and move the bust darts points to the right place.

The garment construction was fairly quick easy and straight forward. I like the welt pockets and general style. The covered buttons were easy to make but they tend to blend in so if I hadn’t already made them I would have used a different contrast button instead.

As the buttons are purely a design feature I didn’t take any chances making potentially dodgy button holes and merely hand sewed the 2 placket sides together behind each button to make it look as if the buttons were securing it. I doubt if many people would notice the lack of actual button holes.

I am quite pleased with this dress, the cotton fabric means it can be worn in warm weather but as its fairly thick it will be trans seasonal as well.

This is my first ‘pattern review’ and I believe its customary to include some Q & A so here goes.

What did you like about the pattern? – Semi-fitted style, welt pockets, easy batwing sleeve which eliminate sleeve fitting issues, only a few pattern pieces, would work with a variety of fabrics and seasons.

What didn’t you like? – bust darts didn’t print out, no notches, sketchy instructions compared to independents.

What size did you make? – Bust 16, waist 18, hips 14

Fabric used : bought 2.5 m medium weight cotton, 22 in zip, fabric button backs

Modifications: Shortened bodice, lowered neck, didn’t make button holes

Would you make it again/recommend: I normally like to try something different but would recommend, I’ve worn it a few times and feel good doing so.

Bonus feature : Tailor’s ham

I bought a t-shirt for £1 from a charity shop but once home it looked a bit shabby to make anything from. However I did fancy owning a tailor’s ham so I used the t-shirt to cut out some ham shaped pieces and stuffed them with the rest of the t-shirt fabric cut into small pieces.

It works well, job done.