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 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.
The challenge this year seemed difficult, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tackle it, but as the inspirations started to appear I could not resist.
Once I’d started looking for suits in my visits to charity shops I discovered that there aren’t actually that many of them, and if you do find a suit it’s usually quite boring. I wasn’t going to be keen on making something I didn’t want to wear.
On a particularly productive visit to Tunbridge Wells, a town of many charity shops, I found quite a lot of good quality mens suits in the shops. Some of them had very nice linings and I started to think I could feminize the refashioned item with some of the fancy lining fabric, but in the end I didn’t buy.
My lack of buying turned out to be the right course of action because the very next day I spotted this skirt suit in my local charity shop, Geranium.
It was too small in size and too short in length but the blue denim coloured fabric with its inlaid pattern was more likely to be something I would like to wear than a man’s suit would ever be.
I am always interested in the type of fabric a garment is made of and its origin.
The whole world lives in London and this suit was made in France, by the Morgan de toi brand.
I think the fabric is like chambray but it has 4% elastane and the rest of it is not cotton. The pattern looks a bit like embroidery but isn’t, it’s more like an embossed effect slightly raised and not visible on the underside and unironable on the patterned side.
The jacket was lined and under the lining the ‘chambray’ was mostly covered with a black mesh glued in interfacing. During the deconstruction the interfacing was easy to tear off the back of the fabric but it did leave some dots of glue behind which I removed onto a cloth using a hot iron.
First thing I did when I got this home was wash the whole thing on my normal cycle. Best to get any potential shrinking done now.
The unwashability of fancy men’s suits was another thing that has steered me away from them. Top quality Italian wool is all well and good but if you can’t wash it in a machine then that’s a major drawback in my book.
I spread the jacket out and the bottom part of it looked a bit skirt shaped therefore it was going to become a skirt. I like skirts.
I realise that an actual ready made skirt was the other component of the suit but it’s dimensions were so far away from my requirements that I am afraid the role of this simple little skirt was to be donor fabric.
I cut the jacket all along the back just below the sleeves and unpicked the skirt seams. Laying these pieces together gave a long enough strip for the bottom half of an A line skirt. The sleeves could be cut into panels to make the top half of the skirt.
I made the top half of my new skirt first which, once I had worked out my panel dimensions was fairly straightforward. The sleeve fabric was plain denim colour with no pattern but I also incorporated a less patterned part of the jacket.
Next was to put together the bottom half of the skirt. I unpicked the hem from the jacket to give a bit more length and lined up the patterns from the skirt elements and sewed it all up into a long wrap like strip.
Now I had to attach the top and bottom halves of the skirt together
To try and make it look a bit more finished I decided to use a new (to me) technique of piping using a recently purchased invisible zip foot.
I was delighted to be able to use up some of the jacket lining to make the piping.
Apparently you can buy special ridgid piping interiors to make piping with. I decided to see if an old shoelace would work just as well – it did.
I rough cut a strip of lining and sewed it tightly around the shoelace. This zipper foot was good. It could even keep the slippery lining fabric under control.
Once the shoelace was encased I cut the lining down to the right size and sandwiched it between the seam holding the top and bottom parts of my skirt together.
As the shoelace was rather thick I left the end of it sticking out so I could pull the lace out of the piping once the sewing was finished – this worked for me.
I wanted the piping to lie downwards so I ironed the seam to face upwards.
I was so pleased with the zipper foot that I decided to keep it on for normal sewing because it was easier to guide the needle to the exact line I wanted to sew, and pins could be left in place because they were not in the way, however the zipper foot, being fixed rigid with no lift at the front like on a normal foot, did not cope well with any lumps and bumps. When it came to a join for example, it tended to stub its toe on any slightly raised element and I had to hike the tension right up before it would budge.
I haven’t yet mentioned the many times I tried on this garment. When I say ‘tried on’ I mean wrapped the strips around me to see what it was looking like. This is a vital part of any refashion I undertake. I am obsessive about it, usually sewing when home alone partly because it makes such a mess and partly because I am constantly taking my clothes off at each stage to try on .
The purpose of the trying on at this stage was to see which part of the wrap would hang best to use as the front. There was a problem in that the shaping of the jacket got in the way of the drape of the skirt. It really would have been better if I had just harvested fabric but I wanted to be more ‘authentic’ and retain some of the jacket seams.
I had also cut the fabric too wide but terrified of cutting too small, I always err on the side of wide and cut down later.
I stitched what was now a wrap of fabric together to make the skirt. A bit more seam tweaking and cutting down was needed to make it hang better and the right size.
I was going to use the original skirt zip but the 4% elastane gave enough stretch to pull this thing over my head so I missed the zip out and made a soft and comfy waistband with a strip of fabric left over from my previous project, treating it like a big strip of bias binding.
I had read a tip about using a strip of card to keep hems an even width and used this method to keep the waistband even.
All that remained was the hem. Unfortunately this contained two notches where there had been some grading of the jacket seam. I was intending to keep these notches as a ‘design feature’ because to get rid of them would have making the hem shorter and the skirt length was already at about the shortest I was prepared to tolerate. Alarm bells started ringing when my husband, who normally never notices anything about clothes, asked me if the hem was supposed to be like that.
This led me to infill the hem notches with some scraps turning them from design feature to hopefully invisible feature.
I removed the original label from the inside of the jacket collar and sewed it onto a visible place on the skirt, my aim being to fool some innocents into thinking this was a RTW designer item.
Reflections on this project are:
Negative : I could have bought a different item cheaper and made a skirt more easily if I hadn’t been constrained to buying a suit.
Positive : My charity shop wanderings were made more interesting by having a definite aim.
Negative : I already have enough skirts, many of them similar to this one.
Positive : Its fun to join in and I tried a new technique of piping.
Positive : Therefashioners always challenges me out of my comfort zone and I take more care with these projects than most.
Positive : This skirt is super comfy to wear because of the high elastane content, I would never have normally thought of making a skirt out of a jacket. I am even happy to wear it with a top tucked in.
Conclusion: More positives than negatives, I will be joining in again next year.