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 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.
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 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?