Dress to skirt refashion

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This dress was a longstanding inhabitant of my refashion stash, in fact it had been in there for maybe 4 years, how long was this going to go on?

I had bought the dress for next to nothing at a jumble sale, which had reached the ‘fill a bag for £1’ stage and I was swept along in the buying frenzy. I picked it out due to the Berkertex label but despite pulling it out of my refashion stash and examining it on several previous occasions I always found myself lacking in inspiration.

The dress was at 2 sizes too small for me and constructed of several panels running right down its length. Re-donation was looking like the only option but honestly, there are probably not many buyers out there for this type of dress in my local shops. I decided that I could make a skirt from it using my new favourite pattern, view D.

Fabric was a light weight viscose with mother of pearl buttons.

The pattern includes side pockets below the yolk but I decided to change these to side seam pockets, less cutting through panels involved. I had made this before what could go wrong? Here are all the elements before it was sewn together.

I had to move the buttons – more around the waist and toward the hem and split the front yolk to incorporate the front fasten – the pattern has a rear zip fasten. The yolk ended up a bit short so I had to add a small extension which made it somewhat untidy but as I rarely wear tops tucked in that won’t show.

On the hanger
On me

It’s a bit mumsy, but I suppose that’s my look.

T- shirt to cardigan refashion

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I bought this t-shirt for £3 at a local charity shop,  looking for something in a neutral colour to make into a layering item and this fitted the bill.


Its a men’s large by Farah, 100% cotton, made in Turkey.  The fabric is a good weight, slightly thicker than any t-shirt I currently own and a nice grey marl.

The plan was to make it into a short sleeved cardigan.  First thing was to cut off the excess length.


The cut off piece was to be used as a button band, cut in half and folded over.

Second cut was straight down the centre front.

img_05441.jpgThen I folded my button band ie the bottom of the t-shirt, over the cut edges of the centre front.  I was worried about stretching so sewed a piece of woven cotton from a men’s shirt as an interfacing.


I had to finish the top and bottom edges of the button band with a bit of hand sewing, but this fabric takes that well, the stitches almost sink into it.

It was still looking a bit masculine so I chose some feminine buttons from my stash to complete the cardigan.  Making the buttonholes was a bit traumatic as the band was quite thick and the button hole foot was reluctant to tackle it.


The cardigan is still quite plain looking and I am resisting the urge to add some colour.




Bonus feature – Using fabric to update bathroom drawers



I painted these MDF bathroom drawers and added fabric to the top and sides with diluted PVA.  The glue binds the fabric and there is no fraying whatsoever.

To protect the top I cut a piece of plastic (salvaged from another item of Ikea furniture) with a handsaw and glued that on, also with PVA, my new favourite liquid .


Scarf to shawl refashion

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This was such a simple project  I am not even sure it deserves the title of a refashion.

I found this scarf wrapped around a tree in my local park.

The label is ‘Old Navy’, made in China, and a quick look on the internet revealed the retail price was around $12.


I suppose someone had done the tree wrap thinking that the owner was more likely to notice it when next passing.  They did not get chance,  I saw it first.

After taking the scarf home and washing, I considered what to do with it.  It was a good size,  50 inches square, and the way the pattern was distributed around the edge would have made it a good candidate for  this treatment.

However the fabric was a very open weave, some kind of man made stuff, it was accurately described on the Old Navy website as gauze.  I thought that if I made something like a top out of it,  the result would be see through and the seams would be fragile.

I decided to add a few lines of stitching to make the scarf into a lightweight shawl type cover up, perfect for the transitional weather this month.


There was an inspiration piece, shown above.

I once pulled this simple white lacy top from the bargain bin of one of my usual charity shops, thinking the lace might be useful, but when I tried it on at home,  was pleasantly surprised and have worn it as is.  As you can see, this inspiration top is circular and my scarf is square but the general principle is the same.


I made a simple cut for the neck and turned it under twice for a hem (above) To make it more stable I added a line of fancy stitching (below)


Next I sewed a diagonal line from the corner inwards on each side, to give the suggestion of an armhole/sleeve.  The pattern on the scarf made this easy for me.


The result is not bad and does the job I had intended for it.  I like the pattern colours and it adds just enough warmth when the weather is a little chilly.  The lightweight gauzy fabric means the shawl can be rolled up quite small and carried around in a handbag.





The photo below shows the scarf close to the tree where I originally found it.


Bonus feature: Other scarves  have found

My usual source for items to refashion is charity shops but I am unashamed to say I have also picked up items from the street and even occasionally from bins.

There are 2 main reasons I refashion which are

  • I enjoy it as a hobby
  • I don’t like waste

Scarves don’t really wear out but people seem to drop them quite often

This top is one I have previously made from a scarf found on my way to work.


This one below I do wear as a scarf.  I was at the theatre when 15 min before the end of the show,  a couple rushed out early.  The scarf fell to the floor as they exited.  From several rows away I could not shout to them and disrupt the performance. At the end everyone else stepped over the scarf but I picked it up. Well if they left in a hurry they’re not going to come back for it are they?


Cruise wear to cool wear

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It was the generous meterage of fabric which first attracted me to this odd garment when I spotted it on a charity shop hanger.  I couldn’t work out what it actually was but £3 for this amount of fabric, unimpeded by few seams, seemed like a bargain not to pass up.

At home trying this contraption on, I wasn’t much the wiser.

Looking like palazzo pants with a wrap around skirt incorporated, you could also wear it as a sarong or halter neck dress.

It had a label ‘Moira C’, it’s 100% polyester, no country of origin, with a lot of small pretty purple flowers maybe violets?

I did some research and there is a video from Moira herself showing you how to wear this thing.  Apparently its ideal for cruises because of the unlimited food on offer you need clothes which are size flexible.  I’m mocking but actually I think I quite admire  Moira, a woman after my own heart.

Anyway, I was going to fabric harvest, and there was a lot of fabric, nearly 3 metres of it.

The plan was to make a top using the same pattern as in my previous post but sleeveless and with some gathers under the neckline band instead of bust darts, because I wanted to make something cool and loose to wear in the hot weather.

I slashed and spread at the neckline to make room for some gathers

The pattern was something of a dogs dinner once I had finished with it.

I was able to get the whole of the top out one of one leg of the pants, and with these pants there are 4 legs.

The fabric slipped and frayed quite a bit, it was a job for the walking foot.

I did have to neaten the seams in a rudimentary way.  Luckily I had left generous seam allowances and was able to fold each side of the allowance down then sew the sides together, it would have been better to use French seams in the first place.

Neatened seam allowances, I was afraid of fraying

The contrast neckband was made from ultra stiff Dutch wax, there was no way it needed any interfacing so I missed it out. I hope this stiff as a board fabric is going to loosen up once I’ve washed it a few times, which leads me to think that actually I probably should have washed it first before sewing, oh well, too late now.

Neckband back view

At first I thought it would be possible to use the pant ties as a kind of interfacing for the sleeves, but as they were not bias cut it didn’t work out, I had to cut them off and make some actual bias binding instead.

Cutting off this first attempt at sleeve binding meant what was left of the shoulders was perilously close to the neckband.



All, bar the hem, was done within one afternoon.


The gathers did give a bit of trouble, first attempt they were off to one side. I read later that you’re not supposed to use a walking foot for gathers, it squashes them, that’s probably what went wrong.  Actually they are still off a bit to one side but I’m not undoing them again.

I saw someone on the way to work wearing a top which had a straight hem at the front and a longer curved hem at the back, and decided to try out this hem idea for myself.

Side seam hemline detail


The hem is probably my favourite part of this top, and I referenced this method

from byhandlondon  to get the curved hem neat.  The inspiration top wasn’t quite as long at the back, but I’m happy with what I’ve got.

First stage of hemming, see how much this fabric frays

Finished hem, you can see the 2 lines of stitching where I missed folding exactly on the first set of stitches

I used a book as a tailors clapper when making the hem.

The weather in London is cooler now but I am off to Mykonos in September, hoping to wear the top there.





T shirt tart up

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I bought this t-shirt from a local car boot sale.  I think it was £1.50.

I have a lot of patterned clothes, so needed some plain colours to go with the patterns, This was the idea behind my purchase.

Its  a standard 100% cotton Marks and Spencer Woman brand t-shirt, made in Bangladesh.  There were no tags but no visible wear.


The size was a little bigger than I normally wear so first thing was to take the waist in with a simple seam alteration.

The shoulders were also slightly large, making the neck hang too low.

Altered shoulder seams

To fix this I opened up the shoulder seams and re-sewed them taking an extra inch off.  The effect was to pull the neckline up to the desired height.

I sewed the new shoulder seams back onto the sleeves which left me with a little point where the shoulder seam met the sleeve.  Some tutorials suggest re-setting the sleeve but I found that in this case, smoothing out the point with a short line of stitching did the job satisfactorily.

Fixing the point created at the sleeve/shoulder join by the new shoulder seams

I also had to cut a half inch strip off the back of the neckline, including the ribbed binding, as there was now surplus fabric there

The new shoulder seams meant the back of the neck needed shortening

The sleeves were shortened by half and then a bit more.


Having been through a piping phase last year I am now going through a bit of a bias binding phase.


I had this square of fabric, given free with a magazine, which seemed to co-ordinate well with the colour of the t-shirt.  When I say I want plain coloured clothes I don’t mean completely plain, obviously.  The plan was to make bias binding with the patterned square and bind the sleeves and neckline. This was more or less the suggestion made by the magazine as a use for this free square of fabric, except they added a decorative pocket as well.

I used this  tutorial to make continuous bias binding from the square of fabric.


Binding the sleeves was quite straight forward.  I machine sewed it all and the 2nd line of stitching was in the ditch on the right side. Looking at this close up photo of the binding the ditch stitching looks really obvious but its actually not that noticeable when worn.  It did make me consider hand stitching from the wrong side next time though.


To bind the neckline I used  this tutorial which gives instructions how to machine sew the internal corner.

Here’s the finished product.  If I’m honest the neckline does seem to have slipped back down a bit, which I am blaming on not stretching the bias binding tight enough on the back of the neckline.


It was a simple project and I’m sure the newly revamped t-shirt will get a lot of wear.

Poster for upcoming Lambeth Show

At Josephine Avenue urban art fair


Tablecloth to trousers refashion

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Having already made a circular skirt from the middle of this tablecloth


I found there was enough left over to make a pair of trousers from the edges – it was a big piece of fabric.


I used a pattern I had already perfected for fit but omitted the pockets and changed the fly closure to a side zip.

The weave of the fabric was fairly loose which makes the trousers quite a light summer weight.


There’s still some tablecloth left over, and I am pretty determined to make something else with it.


Bonus feature – Golden Hands

In my local charity shop I noticed a set of red binders containing Golden Hands magazines, a weekly 1970’s series that my mother used to collect.


The magazines have lovely articles about sewing, knitting, embroidery, macramé, crochet and probably several other crafts I have missed out.


They are seventies beauties and I a joy to read through.


I bought the lot.





Rucksack replicated

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I’ve had a lot of use out of this rucksack.  It’s travelled many miles with me but after 2 repairs already is now coming to the end.

I decided to sew a new one, which would make a good project for using stash items.

I made some pattern pieces from drawing and measuring round the old rucksack.


I am a fan of denim and something of a denim hoarder,  finding it hard to pass by a good looking pair of jeans in a bin for instance, so denim was always going to feature, including my signature double pocket pocket.  The other main fabric was a thinner synthetic zebra print from a weird coat dress.

It became a stash busting fest, as I also used some Dutch wax for lining, an old felted jumper for padding the back and straps, and a checked shirt for bias binding.


The only new item was the zip as I didn’t have one sturdy and long enough.  I really should have used the zip from the old rucksack but didn’t want to be in a no rucksack at all situation.

The design was simplified by making only one compartment, and by making fixed straps. I tried the rucksack on with and without a jumper and the fit seemed good.

My walking foot was essential for sewing through several thick layers of fabric, which it managed to do quite impressively.


Unusually for me I decided to tidy up the bag interior by bias binding the seams, and it did improve the look.


I did prepare a carrying handle but haven’t added this yet, partly because I saw someone with a 2 handled version on my way to work which looked good and I was going to copy that but now am not sure and will try the bag without a hanging strap – it was mainly the dangling adjustable straps that got in the way of carrying my old one by the shoulder straps and as this bag doesn’t have them, carrying by the shoulder straps may be a better experience.

Logo t-shirt fix

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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.



Birthday present dress to skirt refashion

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Bad hair day


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.

Finished skirt:


And a couple of photos of it being worn on a recent trip to Milan.

This jasmine covered wall smelled wonderful


Taking a break from sightseeing in Milan


Polka dot dress to trousers

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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.