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.
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.
And a couple of photos of it being worn on a recent trip to Milan.
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.
I bought this dress at a flea market in Amsterdam. It was a hand made faux wrap number with a buttoned down top section and a long zip placed in the centre of a side seam for entry and exit. The skirt portion was lined.
Most of the stuff on this stall was just piled in a heap on the floor with no one obvious in charge. My sister got fed up and sat down on a chair. She got asked several times how much things cost.
I noticed that better looked after on a rack were some horrible old seventies style track suits – surely these are not coming back in?
I was desperate to buy something and had a really long rummage. I was looking for a mainly white item with a reasonable amount of fabric so that’s why I picked up the dress.
Once I saw that it was handmade, that sold it to me, also the fact that everything on the floor was only 2 euros.
Once home and given a better examination the dress didn’t seem that great. The fabric, although pretty, was a kind of nylon crepe with a few pulls on the rear of the skirt – at least it had seen some wear. I don’t think I would have bought it in the UK.
When I refashioned this top a couple of years ago, I noticed how simple the design was and made a mental note to recreate it some time. That was the plan I had in mind for the Amsterdam dress, re-create this simple top from the skirt portion.
I unpicked the zip which had been sewn in by hand and cut the top part of the dress free from the skirt, this released a few pleats and the wrap. The best part of the fabric was underneath the faux wrap so I was going to use this as the front of my top.
I folded both white top and dress fabric and cut around leaving seam allowances. I was able to use the original neatly hand sewn hem of the dress as the new hem of my top.
The dress was made of panels and therefore had seams, which I placed to that they would be roughly in the position of princess seams on the front of the top.
I placed a dress panel seam at the centre back of the top so it could be opened later to make the neck closure.
I looked at the original to decide the order of work and first thing was to sew a small double turned hem around the arm holes, then the shoulder seams, then the side seams.
I decided to add a couple of open tabs at the sides.
For the cutting out, dress panel seam placement on the front of the top had been for symmetry, but although the ‘princess seams’ were not exactly in the right place, I was still able to use them to add a bit of shaping and improve the fit.
Finally, self bias binding finished the neckline, with one of the original buttons for the loop closure.
Washing, ironing and cutting into a new shape had done a lot for this fabric and I am quite pleased with the outcome. Its doubly satisfying to rescue someone else’s hard work from a pile on the floor and give it a new lease of life.
I picked up this dress and jacket at the same market – 2 euros for the set, because I liked the sunny yellow fabric and because it said ‘Amsterdam’ on the label. It looked either old or hand made – no washing instructions.
When I got it home, turns out it is an original 50’s or early 60’s piece, one label from the designer, one from the shop. Its made to fit someone with a 24 inch waist so never going to fit me, but now too good to refashion.
I bought this skirt on a whim for £7.99 from Oxfam, a bit pricey if you ask me, but that’s Oxfam for you.
It was originally from the mid range ZARA brand, I liked the colour and the style, it looked in pretty good nick in this year’s colour of purple.
There was one problem, it was in a size smaller than I normally wear, but I knew I could fix that.
I would normally wash anything on my normal cycle before working on it but the laundry instructions for this garment were, shock horror, ‘do not wash’ – silk, should have known. Well here was a dilemma, only a few days before a trip on which I wanted to wear this skirt. It didn’t smell, there were no obvious stains so I decided to work on and wear it as is ie unwashed.
The style was flared panels with a secondary flared band at the hem. Easy to make bigger just by shortening the skirt and therefore enlarging the waist a couple of inches.
Deconstructing a commercially produced garment is quite interesting. The waist of this skirt gave up various items of piping cord and binding tape as I continued to unpick it, they will be going in my stash.
In the end, weary of unpicking just cut through the top 1.5 inches of the top of the skirt, outer and lining fabric combined, but unpicked around the zip. This immediately unleashed the unruly nature of the slippery silk fabric and lining. The new waist was turned under by about 1cm a couple of times to secure it.
The skirt ended up a bit shorter but I am a bit short so this wasn’t a problem.
The lining ended up sticking out from under the hem a bit, so turned it under to solve. Those commercial manufacturers don’t miss a trick, I could see that the stich length was time and thread savingly longer on the hem of the lining.
The zip was tucked under and finished with a couple of hand stitches and it was ready to go.
I wore the skirt for the planned trip to Florence
Next to my fabric stash is a smaller but longstanding yarn stash. I’ve had some of this stuff for 20 years and asked myself ‘if not now, when?’
So I’ve been through a bit of a knitting phase and produced this from some brightly coloured 100% cotton yarn bought a long time ago.
I have 2 daughters and each gave me a pair of trousers to refashion.
The first (patterned) pair had a broken side zip. I tried these on hoping I could just replace the zip and they would be good to go. Unfortunately they were too small. They were from New Look, 71% viscose, 26% polyester, 3% elastane, made in Cambodia. The label was actually stuck in the zip.
The second (plain black) pair were a good fit but looking a bit worn. They were from George at Asda, and the fabric label was unreadable due to extensive washing but I would say they were mainly cotton with a similar elastane content to the other pair.
I decided to use a full length strip from the black pair to make the patterned pair bigger, using the ‘tuxedo’ method.
I have noticed that this kind of style is a common design feature in RTW, I even have some RTW running trousers myself which are like that.
I had never used this method before and did a bit of research before giving it a try – useful information was here
I unpicked the recipient trouser side seams but just cut a strip from the donor trousers from the side seam area. The strip was 3.5 inches wide, to include seam allowances. This was just a bit of a guess but as both fabrics had some elastane content I guessed it would work.
I don’t have a serger but I do have a reasonably good regular machine. Its a Janome décor computer and has 50 different stitches programmed in, most of which I have never used.
After reading some tip online about how to sew stretch fabrics without a serger, I studied the manual which came with my machine and found that 3 of the 50 stitches were in fact ‘stretch stitches’
Look at numbers 5 and 18 – they don’t look very interesting in a diagram but I they are both ‘stretch’ stitches and therefore interesting for my project. Number 5 is for seams, works like zig zag stitch but better because the seam lies flatter, 18 is a stronger stitch, ideal for jeans I thought. I will be using these stitches again and also reading more of the manual.
The method was quite quick and easy to use, I had it finished in a day which is unusual for me. Only issue was adjusting the tension for some of the thicker parts around the waistband.
I could just about pull the trousers up without any fastenings but adding a zip from the donor trousers made it easier.
I also added the back pockets from the black trousers.
After a bit of loose thread tidying they were ready.