Silk blouse refashioned bigger
My friend gave me this 100% silk blouse which was cut on the bias but there was zero ease around the bust area.
The sizing in this blouse was XL but the dart was really small and I can not imagine are many XL women for whom the dart would be correctly positioned.
I decided the fix would be to add a little more ease down the side seams, increase the size and position the bust dart.
Un picking the side seams and original dart was straight forward enough but revealed there was very little side seam allowance.
I made a new dart by pinning using a mirror. The bias cut fabric meant that the two sides often looked asymmetric when I was trying on, so I just had to trust to measuring to get it right.
I selected some lace trim to add into the side seam. The lace only added around 2 inches of ease in total because I had to use some of the original seam allowance to join it, at least with the bias cut there was no fraying.
I also added some different lace at the front bottom edge to make up for the fabric taken up by the larger dart. I suppose the side lace is meant to be functional and the bottom lace is meant to be decorative.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a refashion like this so felt the pressure was on to produce something with a good finish as I’ve done a lot of sewing and gained experience since.
Sew wear are they now? 2017 edition
I made / refashioned 11 items of clothing in 2017, 3 of which I still have. Here I am reviewing a representative selection.
I used to spend more time on pinterest than I do now, and spotted a cute t-shirt transformation which looked easy to copy.
This t-shirt got comments whenever I wore it, even children who could barely speak would notice it.
For some reason I later decided to shorten the hem and add a band of lace to the hem, but this ruined it – just made it look wrong.
The base t-shirt which I got from a charity shop was more worn than I realised which also limited its life.
positives – always got me noticed
negatives – took it a refashion too far
estimated number of wears – 20
I discarded this re-fashion in March 2020
I made a top from a good quality large size men’s shirt.
It was a simple re-make where the back becomes the front, I cut off the sleeves, added some bust shaping and bias binding.
I remember being quite pleased with the bias binding but the darts look a bit dodgy.
This top has had a good amount of wear but has a limited wearing season of high summer.
Positives – nice colour, simple garment which goes with anything
negatives – creases within 5 minutes of putting on
Estimated number of wears – 31
This top was demoted to gardening wear summer 2021 when it quickly picked up some stubborn stains and has now been discarded.
I made a skirt from a dress and a skirt given to me by the same person (my daughter)
Despite 2 different types of fabric, a thin stretchy jersey and a mid weight woven, they actually went together well. I had a penchant for a frill hem on a skirt at the time.
I didn’t actually make a waistband initially, just relying on the stretch in the fabric to hold the skirt up, but that didn’t really work and in 2020 I modified it with a waistband.
positives – very comfortable to wear due to the stretchy nature of the fabric
negatives – none really, its a summer season skirt
estimated number of wears – 25
I wore this skirt 10 times summer 2021 and have now discarded it.
I was given this dress to refashion and I really liked the colour of the fabric, which had 2 way stretch.
The dress had a wrap top which in my experience always gape, so I cut off the wrap section and sewed a centre seam instead.
I used more of the dress fabric to add length under the wrap.
The trim around the neck V was the finishing touch. – see next photo for an image of the top.
Positives – good original fit around the shoulders and arms
negatives – can’t think of any
estimated number of wears – 20
I still have this top and it’s probably got another 20 wears in it, I have a lot of tops and they only get 10 wears per year.
Suit to skirt refashion – refashioners 2017
This refashioners challenge was indeed something of a challenge as I had never refashioned a suit before.
I think I chose a good ladies skirt suit to work with and gave it my best shot by making a panelled A line skirt from both the jacket and skirt elements of the suit.
The fabric was denim coloured but had a lot of stretch and an embossed finish.
Note that I used fabric from the previous refashion for a waistband.
This skirt grew on me and I ended up being quite a favourite ( it was easy to wear with any top)
positives – comfortable and goes with anything
negatives – the fabric was stiff and had no drape at all
estimated number of wears – 20
I discarded this skirt in Aug 2020, it wasn’t worn out and I was maybe just having a bad day.
Skirt in 2017, worn with above top as a twofer.
This concludes my ‘sew wear are they now?’ series, I’ll leave it until next year to do 2018.
Vintage embroidered tablecloth to sunhat
I’ve got a small collection of vintage table linens, some are family items, some I purchased myself.
This one was made by my great aunt in 1950 or earlier.
It’s beautifully bright and colourful, so perfectly embroidered, you can barely tell which is the back and which is the front.
The bright pinks, blues and yellows have been expertly stitched. The scalloped edge has been blanket stitched by hand, the base linen looks and feels silky like cream.
I’ve had it since 1993, the date of a different great aunt’s death and no one else wanted it. Its been in storage in a bag of mine and rarely seen the light of day in 28 years. Prior to that, I don’t ever remember seeing it in use and it was found in a suitcase under the bed, so this beautiful item has not been used and loved for 70 years.
There are stains, and I washed it in my machine on a delicate hand wash cycle, which did not damage the expertly stitched embroidery in any way but also did not remove the stains.
The reason it got washed this week was because there was a plan.
I find these pieces difficult to repurpose because there is not a lot of fabric to make a whole garment and the embroidery is delicate and positioned to suit a tablecloth not clothing.
I had purchased the Brighton bucket hat from sewgirl patterns
This hat has a small and large brim version and is reversible. I had already made a small brim version from a 2nd hand skirt and some vintage Laura Ashley homeware fabric:
It occurred to me that the size and curved shape of the brim pattern piece may fit the curve of embroidery typically sewn into the corner of a vintage tablecloth.
I cut my large brim hat pieces from the vintage tablecloth – fabric and pattern were a match made in heaven.
For the reverse I used a Orla Kiely curtain which had a similar background colour.
As both fabrics were mid weight I only interfaced one of the brim pieces – the instructions suggest more liberal use of interfacing.
What is great about the design of this hat is that the small brim version provides sun protection without being too large, and the large brim version is meant to be turned up so that the alternative fabric shows, and this showcases the flowery embroidery when the alternative fabric is outermost.
I am so pleased with both hats but especially with the large brim version because I have found a way to give the work of my talented ancestor a new life and a new set of viewers, both here online and in real life. A hat doesn’t need washing that often, doesn’t have areas of heavy wear and so should endure. The tablecloth maker died in 1959 so I never got to meet her, I suppose she never would have guessed that the youngest daughter of her husband’s niece would still be appreciating her work more than 60 years later. I am pretty sure none of my own sewing will stand that test of time.
Coat from a curtain
Some time last year I was offered curtains which were being thrown out and obviously said yes please.
There were 3 different types and although not keen on the brown ones, took them all because I think that’s the best thing to do all round. If you go through the bag picking out some things and rejecting others its like criticizing someone’s taste who is trying to do you a favour, and if you don’t take everything you are not helping them as much because they still have stuff to get rid of.
I put all of them up in my loft for a while waiting for inspiration to strike – and before long it did, but for the disliked brown ones.
A few years ago I found myself away from home and having misjudged the weather, in need of a coat. This was an annoying situation for me because I don’t like to make unplanned clothing purchases and in this case bought a value coat from a supermarket – it was a hip length duvet type coat:
I have given this coat a chance and worn it quite a lot – I washed it and some of the padding clumped together, so now its time was up and it wasn’t that warm anyway – enter the brown curtains, which I pre-washed on my normal cycle. I had already removed the lining and used it to line some other curtains.
The curtains were going to be a Helen’s closet Pona jacket – the longer version, and be lined. I am fast becoming a walking advert for this pattern company having recently made 4 x Arden pants, 4 x Suki robe and now 2 x Pona Jacket, note to self, diversify more.
I am not sure what to say the curtain fabric type was but will attempt to describe it – there is a chenille element and a silky element and one side is the shadow of the other.
The warp (grainline) thread, seen here on the left is a thin brown cotton type which holds it all together. There are 2 weft threads, a silky turquoise one which only appears on one side of the fabric to make up the leaves and is hidden in the warp the rest of the time, and a chenille type brown one which appears on one side of the fabric or the other to make up the flowers. The right side of the curtains was the silky side but I decided to use the chenille side as I thought it looked less curtainy. The previous owners of these curtains also owned a cat which had spent some time scratching the silky side.
It was a luxury to have so much fabric, normally I select a fabric piece for my project which is smaller than the recommended size and do tetris to reduce waste, but with this jacket I had plenty and abandoned my normal fabric frugality.
Fraying was a big issue, so much so that even though I was going to line the jacket I started by zig zagging every piece.
The jacket came together well and as I have previously made the shorter view from some old jeans, Helen’s closet Pona jacket from upcycled jeans I was familiar with the instructions. The curtain was thick but my walking foot coped well with it. There is a blog post on Helen’s closet website taking you through the steps needed to line the jacket which I had planned and also needed to do due to the fraying. The lining fabric was some from stash left over some trousers made last year More Arden pants. I struggled with the hem part of the lining instructions and ended up sewing the lining on to the jacket by hand at the hem.
I like the way the other side of the fabric shows on the lapel and am enjoying the oversized pockets. I had to topstitch every edge because this curtain did not respond to pressing. Here is the coat on a hanger
And on my daughter – its not for her, I just used her for photos, then realised I couldn’t then tag sewover50.
The coat is very snuggly and warm but I am going to end up putting some sort of fasten on it as I just think its needed on a coat of this nature.
I had a message from my daughter that some 2XL scrubs were needed at the nursing home at which she works so sewed up these ones from a duvet cover using a sewdifferent pattern found online.
Vintage fabric and thread purchases
I recently had 2 sewing shopping experiences that dreams are made of.
Exploring a nearby village with my daughter we saw a few charity shops. I love charity shops and second hand items generally. There’s the thrill of the chase, the bargains and the variety and unpredictable nature of items on offer for sale which appeals to me. Plus, I feel as if I am giving older items the respect they deserve, they get another chance to be useful and avoid landfill for a few more years.
At one particular charity shop there were some sewing notions for sale – a pincushion and some thread, some curtain tape etc. I bought them for a total of £11 asked if they had any fabric for sale. The sales assistant told me that there was some upstairs and she would go and look. I was expecting a few small pieces, not 3 carrier bags full of wonderful vintage fabric. I could see that one of them was suiting which I am unlikely to use, and rejected that one but said I would buy the other 2 bags, suggested price (from her) was £5. I hadn’t properly looked through the bags but could tell that this price was too cheap and gave her £10.
I couldn’t wait to get home and get a proper look at what was there but could not have anticipated how good the contents were, most likely the fabric stash of a lady who had died. I wish I could have known her and heard her sewing stories. There was a good number of larger pieces, 3m seems to have been her go to length, including what I believe is vintage liberty cotton lawn – I bought some Liberty lawn from the shop last year and this fruity fabric has the same look and feel.
There was 3m of this sheerish blue fabric from 1981 – its probably my favourite of the lot but I haven’t got a plan for it yet.
And 5m of monochrome of a narrower width – this ones a bit slippery.
and so much more…… some pieces look like the 1m you sometimes have left over or maybe remnants but the bag also included some Ikea bedding type fabric from 2007. Most of the fabric was woven but there were some smaller sized knits as well.
At the bottom of one of the bags was a box full of threads, notions and trim, some were very old.
There was some rick rack wrapped up in a 1962 newspaper
Some fancy trim
And some India tape, which I had to look up what it actually was, (its a kind of stabilising tape) made in Manchester with very old styling on the package. There is a lot of this India tape and I doubt I can use all of it it but will absolutely keep and cherish it.
There were also a lot of sets of buttons like this
It was the best ever charity shop find possibly never to be repeated. I will treat this find with respect, for me its not about getting a bargain but about enjoying these treasures.
As luck would have it the next day I was browsing face book market place and near to me someone was selling a box of thread. I went to buy it and the box was a very mixed bag.
There were several overlocker spools and again some very old thread.
Some mending wool – didn’t know that was a thing.
Plenty of older wooden spools, although the owner of this box did seem to like winding new thread onto old bobbins as the dark smoke one is actually yellow.
Look at this war Issue thread – I don’t even know if I should use this as its so old.
There was also an assortment of overlocker threads, some of which were dirty at the edges but I’ll still use them.
It’s official, I now have thread beyond life expectancy, but looking through my fabric and thread is almost a hobby in itself, and I know that if similar treasures presented themselves to me tomorrow I would buy them again.
A Christmas Wilder gown
This is the 4th Wilder gown or top I have made and probably the last.
Here is the first gown and top
This year I moved away from London and the day before I left I got the urge to go into Brixton market one last time for a souvenir, and what better one to choose than some fabric.
I was not interested in Ankara, that has too many issues, not the least of which is that you often have to buy 6 yards of the stuff, so I chose some drapey olive green viscose with cream flowers and a paisley print. It was the last of the bolt which was about 2.7 metres, and at the time of buying there was no particular plan for it.
After my previous Wilder I made a note to increase the bodice length by 2cm, in line with a 2cm FBA. Although the 2.7m I had is quite a lot of fabric, it is not the recommended amount for a full length wilder so I made the panels slightly shorter (would have done that anyway as I am short) and as wide as I could with the fabric available – the first tier has less gathering than the bottom tier.
The Wilder gown involves a lot of gathering, and I decided to try the dental floss and zig zag stitch method which is basically sewing a zig zag stitch over some dental floss, pulling on the floss to achieve gathering, then sewing down the gathers with a straight stitch. I did a practice piece, it seemed straight forward. For the first layer I used a zig zag width of 3 but increased it to 3.5 for the second layer just to make things easier for myself.
On the second layer I must have been a bit casual about stitching my straight stitch beneath the zig zag because annoyingly it bit of it shows though if you look carefully.
I am not sure if extending the bodice by 1 inch was a good idea either, it seems a bit too long now especially when sitting down. Its still a good dress ready to wear on Christmas day.
Bonus feature: foray into knitting
I do knit but am not particularly frequent or adventurous.
I had a bag of various odd balls of wool and decided to knit them up into a cardigan, using round needles to knit the whole bodice so I could just carry on knitting until the balls ran out and always have consistent stripes. This made for a very long row.
I didn’t have a pattern and this make almost felt like a sewing and refashioning exercise, just made a boxy bodice with dropped sleeves.
The bodice turned out too wide so I used some buttons to wrap it around and fasten it down.
Somehow I still seem to have just as much wool left as I bought a few extra because not all the ones I already had were the right thickness or colour.
Dress to apron refashion
This blog post is more about the dress than the apron.
I bought this dress in my local traid shop in their sale for £4. I don’t know how many items they sell with their regular prices but this charity shop is undoubtedly 10 x more busy when there is a sale on.
The full price tag for my dress was £18.99, which explains why no-one had bought it, but the high quality fabric and colours were what attracted me.
With this dress in my hand it was obviously made by someone who was much better at sewing than myself, so despite being not my style or size I bought it because I couldn’t risk this lovely expertly sewn dress ending up in the rag bag. I didn’t have any plan, just a rescue mission.
That was in September 2016 and I’ve looked at the dress many times since to admire the workmanship. It’s some kind of test garment with huge seam allowances and fully lined with thin gauze.
There are these 2 superb bows on the front of the bodice.
Considerable style and fit adjustments had already been made. I trawled some London pattern companies looking for similar dresses but nothing came to light.
I undid the large seam allowances and darts but it still wouldn’t fit me and still wasn’t my style. The panel design meant I couldn’t even harvest the quality fabric for another project.
Inspiration finally came when I wanted to make a new apron. I could preserve the front of the dress as an apron.
First stage was to rip the side seams apart and also remove the arms.
The arm pieces looked like, sewn together, they would make a decent full width pocket. (At this point I noticed that one of the sleeves had been pieced together)
I salvaged the long centre back, perfectly concealed zip and put in my stash.
Some purple velvet ribbon, another long term stash resident, made the waist ties, and the neck loop was made from the back piece of the dress.
I had to add some small bust darts to avoid weird bodice gaping.
So here I have the fanciest fully lined apron, with princess seams, bust darts, bows and ribbons.
My sincere apologies to whoever made the dress. I bought it with the best of intentions, I wanted to save your work. What were you even thinking donating it to a charity shop?
Helen’s closet Arden Pants
I wanted a new pair of summer trousers and picked this pattern because it was Helen’s closet and have been pleased with her products so far.
I often choose the most simple version of a pattern and did so again here, with view A which is no drawstring or ankle cuffs. I added 3 cm to the length at the shorten / lengthen line not because I am tall but because I wanted full length trousers and these are designed as above ankle length.
I find that with sewing, the main time consumption comes with assembly of the pattern and then the angst over what fit modifications to make.
The actual making can be quite quick and easy, and this was certainly the case with these Ardens.
This fabric was from stash. It had come from the charity shop where I was a volunteer and would quickly hoover up any actual fabric donations coming in (there weren’t many). The design looks like ankara but it doesn’t feel like it. The weave is quite loose and a bit like a linen/cotton mix. I liked the colours and the bacterial nature of the pattern.
While I know that making a toile is the gold standard for getting the fit right, I’m not keen, seems like a waste of fabric, so I normally go for measuring the pattern pieces and comparing them to my measurements and other similar items in my wardrobe to come up with the necessary adjustments.
Helen suggests choosing a size based on waist but as my waist is 2 sizes bigger than my hips I used my hip measurements, grading up at the waist.
I haven’t yet achieved the perfect fit in trousers (the main problem is a saggy bum) and decided to go for it with a couple of other adjustments. The pattern is drafted for a 5′ 6″ woman and I am 5′ 3″ so I removed 1cm from the rise at both back and front. This meant taking the same amount out of the front pocket pieces so they still match.
My crotch length is 2 inches longer at the back than the front, but this pattern had a 4 inch difference, so I took another 1 inch out of the curved side of the back pieces as a sort of flat bum adjustment, a second FBA to add to my collection.
At this point I thought the pattern had been messed with enough and went ahead and cut the pieces out. With 0.5m less fabric than the pattern suggestion, by cutting the front pocket pieces on the cross grain was able to fit it all on, and there was very little waste.
There’s an obsessive amount of top stitching suggested in the instructions and went along with it for a while but then used flat felled seams where possible instead. I haven’t used this method very often up to now but may do so more in the future as it is easier than a French seam with a similar effect.
I came unstuck when sewing flat felled seams on the outside edge of the trousers which was just about doable within the width of the legs but involved some contortions under the machine foot.
Note to self is to research pros and cons of French versus flat felled seams.
I bought the right width waist elastic but it was a tight fit to get it into the casing, I’d probably use a slightly smaller seam allowance next time.
I bound the waistband edge for neatness and the loose weave fabric being prone to fray.
Overall these trousers are a success, the fit is probably my best trouser fit achievement yet, they are super comfortable and the pockets are a good size. Fabric choice is questionable because it is very light and unlikely to be hard wearing. I may live in constant fear of a wardrobe malfunction.
Helen’s closet Pona jacket from upcycled jeans
If asked what my favourite stash fabric was the answer would be used denim. When offered an old pair of jeans I can’t say no and used jeans were starting to dominate my fabric pile.
There was also this vintage Laura Ashley curtain fabric, 5 metres bought for £8 in a charity shop. I’d already made a dress from it but there was a lot left.
Two pairs of jeans and some of the Laura Ashley fabric were used to make my Pona.
It always makes me feel slightly guilty that you can never make a garment from just one pair of jeans, it always takes two, but then there are some areas you would like to avoid like the crotch (usually worn) and the knees (stretched into a knee shape) and jeans only come in long narrow pieces, and I did have 7 pairs of jeans waiting for a new life.
Selecting a small pair of Levi’s for the collar and facings, and a lighter coloured Marks and Spencer pair for the sleeves, the rest was to be completed in the flowery fabric.
The Levi’s had a small amount of stretch which I didn’t think would make any difference but it did actually stretch out a bit when being sewed to the other fabrics which had no stretch.
The jacket was quick to make up, you could easily complete it in one day. It took a long time to tape the PDF pattern pieces together though.
I finished the edges with zig zag but binding would have been better for the facing edges at least. Many sewists have bias bound all the edges and that does look neater.
Having originally planned to use the back pockets of the Levi’s as the jacket pockets I changed my mind because I thought it could look a bit too busy and in fact omitted pockets altogether.
Although the instructions are very clear I wasn’t sure about the facing construction and the collar/facing/jacket sandwich and had to watch a sewalong from Penguin and Pear dressmaking.
The Levi’s tag was tucked into the collar – can’t resist details like that.
The machine hemmed sleeves didn’t look great so added a trim from my stash which was hand stitched over the seam and learning from this mistake I hand stitched the main jacket hem.
I am very pleased with this make and am sure it will be a very useful addition to my wardrobe. Also I used my favourite fabric.
I wasn’t sure how warm a short unlined jacket without fastenings would be but the double layer from the over sized facing adds weight. It’s possible I may add some sort of fastening though because the Pona does tend to blow open annoyingly in the slightest breeze.
Having never owned a jacket this short or without fastenings before its a departure from my normal style but I was keen to sew a jacket as it was one of the few gaps in my wardrobe and therefore justifiable right?
I normally have some dilemma about which size to make and whether to do a FBA but as the fit is loose, went with the suggested method of choose a size on the basis of high bust measurement and cut that size straight (in my case size 14) and its roomy enough to take another 2 or more layers underneath.