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I made a new bag for taking to work. As my job is 12 hour night shifts, the bag has to be big enough to fit generous supplies of food, drink, clothing and entertainment in.
The dimensions were based roughly on my old bag, bought new a couple of years ago from a local shop. It looks OK in the photo but has already been subject to a few repairs, has been washed a few times and is looking a bit past it.
I had some fabric in mind bought at a jumble sale last year very cheaply, probably meant for curtains, it is some kind of open fairly thick linen. I got rather excited to see some actual fabric on sale and snapped it up without a plan.
I needed a contrast fabric and this pair of trousers BNWT left behind by a passing girlfriend of my stepson, seemed to work well. They were a similar weight canvas 100% cotton in bright turquoise and the pockets could be used for my signature 2 pockets made into one for the front of the bag.
I cut 5 pieces the sizes and shapes I needed using measurements taken from the old bag.
I haven’t made a bag like this before so it was a learning curve and I wanted to do it properly so heavy duty interfacing was applied to the main pieces .
The interfacing didn’t seem to stick that well so I ended up sewing it in, leading to a visible extra line of stitching that I will have to live with.
There was also going to be a lining.
This used to be a long skirt, previously used to make a top. The original charity shop skirt was the last item of clothing I bought before giving up shopping for a year, I have another 6 months to complete the no shopping year.
The lining fabric was slippery and unpleasant to work with. The top previously made from it …..
doesn’t quite hang right because something went slightly wrong in the cutting out and although I do wear the top, am always aware of its failings.
I remembered a tip about spraying slippery fabrics with spray starch to make them easier to work with. I didn’t have any spray starch but did have hairspray and this worked surprisingly well. I sprayed each piece before sewing and it made quite a difference, and made the pieces smell nice.
I wanted an internal and external pocket and these were sewn on to the relevant pieces first, bearing in mind where their final placement was to be once seams and handles were taken into account
The next stage was to sew up the base and side pieces into one strip, then attach the front and back.
The handles were interfaced and I used a few hand stitches at the internal corners to keep the lining held in place.
I am almost looking forward to going to work to test this bag out.
I had some fun with this simple t-shirt embellishment.
It started with a a plain cotton Marks and Spencer t-shirt, bought last year in a charity shop for £1, intending to tart it up in some way .
Inspiration came from pinterest.
I selected a suitable button from my stash and drew a spider on some tracing-type paper so I could copy it onto the fabric.
The original post involves drawing legs around the button but I wanted to sew them. A patch of interfacing was needed to stabilise the back of the t-shirt where the spider would be sited. My idea was to sew through both paper and t-shirt with a contrasting yellow thread, then rip the paper off and be left with the spider transferred to the t-shirt. It didn’t work that well to be honest, the paper I used was too thick and the yellow thread difficult to get rid of afterwards.
The spider legs involved hand sewing on the basic shape with a running stich then hand sewing at 90 degrees over the legs with small stiches until it looked about right. If this sounds like quite a lot of hand sewing, it was, but I don’t mind hand sewing on this type of project, in fact I find it quite relaxing, also this method produced a sort of spidery hairiness on the legs.
It looks better with the button sewn over the top.
I sewed on some lace from my stash to complete the web on the neckline, again with hand stitches, and finally got the machine out to sew the spider’s thread, finishing off by tying the loose threads in a knot instead of backstitching.
The spider looks like it’s dangling towards the centre, but when being worn it hangs down straight.
Pleased with my efforts I showed it to my husband and he said it looked like a spider was hiding behind a button.
For my entry for the refashioners 2016, when I made a dress from jeans (see earlier blog post), I had made a toile for the bodice and although it was a bit rough and ready, had always intended to continue this to a dress in its own right.
The bodice was made from a pair of 100% cotton trousers by ‘no fear’ which I had bought at the end of a jumble sale when they were just desperate to sell anything and had a ‘fill a bag for a pound’ offer. The binding for the bodice was made from an old pillow case.
I looked through my stash for some suitable fabric to make the skirt and decided to use this the remainder of this long dress.
I bought this dress last year in an independent charity shop, I was attracted by the fabric and the amount of it.
Charity shopping tip: look to the floor
When I’m scanning the rails of any charity shop, it’s sometimes difficult to see everything because the items are tightly packed, so I always cast my eye to the floor to see if there are any long items with good fabrics, and that’s how I picked this out.
These independent shops are always the ones which throw up the best finds. The bigger chains have become quite expensive and the items for sale can be on the bland side. The independents tend to be less discerning about what they put out on sale. In this one I remember a particularly striking lime green leather jacket, which I wish I had photographed.
The dress was too small and revealing for me to wear but I’d bought it for the fabric anyway so I chopped off the top half and just kept the skirt.
I’d already used some of the fabric in an unblogged t-shirt refashion.
I needed a third element to have enough fabric to complete my dress and this time the stash turned up an unworn pair of white cotton trousers.
These trousers were left behind by a former girlfriend of my stepson, I don’t think she’ll be coming back to claim them. They are a good make and maybe I should have taken them to a charity shop instead of cutting them up, but in my experience the shops are full of items in small sizes whereas the buyers tend to be looking for bigger sizes so that’s my justification.
Its funny but various different girlfriends have left items behind, I’ve got a scarf, a jacket and 2 pairs of trousers, and a handbag, so virtually a whole outfit.
I wondered how best to fit the 3 elements together
I made some measurements and there was a difference of 20 inches in the bodice width and the skirt width so I cut 8 panel shapes from the trousers in the right length and shape to fill the gap, basing the length I was aiming for on my denim dress.
At this stage it was going so well I was almost tempted to keep it as a peplum top.
Finally, the tube of skirt fabric was added, and with a small amount of tweaking of the panels to improve the hang (making the front middle seam bigger), it was ready.
I wore this dress in a recent trip to Seville, the red almost looks a bit Spanish?
I was given this dress last year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ideal holiday wear for a recent trip to Seville
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.
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.
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?
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
I was delighted to see some vintage linens feature in the Turner prize this year.
This entry by Helen Marten was the eventual winner.