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.
Dress, too small and too short, fabric a very lightweight polyester, viscose 3% elastane mix with some texture, made in Morocco. There’s some difficult to see olive green in there as well as black and white.
Skirt, also too small and definitely too short, fabric 100% canvas weight cotton, broken zip.
Both items were originally from Primark, the epitome of fast fashion, and were given to me by daughter.
The plan was to combine them to make a skirt.
I was unsure at first if the two fabrics would work well together, because of the different weight and composition as well as the colours.
I decided to go for it, the heavier green cotton would be used to lengthen and add weight to the dress fabric.
First step, chop the dress
I know the cut is very high up the dress but I was unsure how much of the length could be used. I tried this bottom section on, and although it was still small, the stretch in the fabric provided quite a lot of give, it didn’t look ridiculous, (but maybe not suitable for a blog photo)
The green skirt had quite a deep hem, so this was to ripped open, then cut two as wide as possible strips to sew onto the bottom of the dress.
In the lengthening process it would be necessary to follow the flared shape of the dress, and as the skirt does not really flare I decided to make some pleats to make sure the shape looked right. The skirt was constructed of panels so there was a natural place for each pleat to go.
I sewed the 2 skirt strips together to make one long one, and hemmed it. Before turning the hem over, cutting into the serged seams to reduce bulk.
Finished hemline with pleats.
This adds a nice amount of length and weight.
The fabric is so lightweight and stretchy and does not fray. I am going to leave it as it is for now, just turning over the right amount for a supremely comfortable yoga type waistband. I’ll try it for a few wears and review the situation. Because the cut was made so high in the dress and above the natural waist, it seems to work without slipping down.
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?