Sew where are they now? 2018 edition
In 2018 I was still a relatively new sewist happily sewing and refashioning away without a care in the world. I made quite a lot, what happened to it all? Since 11th Oct 2019 I have been keeping records of what I wear so I do have more information to include in this post. I should point out that I wear all of my makes in a kind of rotation. The way it works is that I have 4 outfits on the go at any one time and once I have worn something 10 times, it gets put away until it’s the garments next turn. My aim is that everything should get worn at least 10 times per year. My system is flexible to accommodate holidays and seasons but one important thing I have noticed is that familiarity does not breed contempt. What I mean by this is that often clothes that I’ve worn 10 times become ones which I am reluctant to put away, even if I wasn’t particularly looking forward to their time in rotation.
This post doesn’t include everything I made in 2018, but it’s a large sample.
Two t-shirt refashions
I bought 2 large, lightly worn plain t-shirts at a car boot sale for £1 each, with the intention of adding some extra trims and treatments copied from things I’d seen on pinterest.
The green one was given a simple treatment of bias binding around the cuffs and neckline. It had 10 recorded wears and probably another 20 or so before I started my records, and was discarded in May 2020. Reasons for it getting thrown out were wear and fraying of the fabric I had added, and armpit stains.
The purple one was given a more elaborate neckline of a fabric bib trimmed with rick rack. This one is still in my wardrobe and has had 30 recorded wears and probably another 20 before that. I’ll be throwing it out after the next 10 wears as I’ve had enough of it.
Skirt and trousers made from the same tablecloth
I bought a tablecloth in Oxfam for what I considered at the time to be a pricey £15. It’s a fairly common piece, a large circular print in the centre in some kind of loose woven batik type print.
I immediately thought ‘circle skirt’ as the cutting out would be easy but in fact, but this resulted in a skirt with an uneven hemline as bias cut skirts need to be left to hang before hemming. Nevertheless this got 20 recorded wears before it was discarded in June 21. Reasons for discarding it were fading of the print and it also had a rip in it.
I had sufficient fabric to make trousers from the edges of the tablecloth and they got 30 recorded wears, being discarded from my rotation in April 2021, for the same reasons as I discarded the skirt, however, the trousers lived on as gardening wear, probably getting an extra 20 wears before I replaced them with some pants with pockets.
Table runner and denim trousers
Another tablecloth make, technically a table runner which caught my eye at a jumble sale for next to nothing, paired with some old denim to make a pair of trousers. I had the table runner for about 2 years, auditioning and rejecting it for several projects before settling on the trousers. The table runner, having a loose weave, was unsuitable for trousers really but, despite being at the whacky end of my creations, I like these trousers so much they are still in my rotation, and in fact I have even been wearing them on the day of writing. They’ve had 40 recorded wears and I am currently deciding whether it should be 50 or not – some of the denim is getting thin and has already been repaired with an added pocket patch.
Simple Sew Anneka tunic
This was made from some actual fabric found in a charity shop – one of the first times this ever happened. The fabric is an old fashioned print and somewhat scratchy, synthetic and sweaty, however I do still own this dress. It’s had 30 recorded wears and will make 40 but maybe not more after that. I think it is a bit short and unflattering as well as the other problems to do with the fabric, but it’s still with me because it’s very loose and comfortable.
Purple flowers top
I made this from some purple wrap trousers which contained a lot of fabric I used the rest of the fabric to cover a piece of furniture. The top is still in my wardrobe but I’ve only worn it 10 times. It is a summer only wear and a bit tight on the bust. It will get to at least 20 wears although does count as a bit of a fail. I have 28 tops, which is too many for them each to get 10 wears per year and I do want to reduce this number.
In conclusion, 2018 wasn’t a bad year, I made a few more things than listed here but I don’t want the post to go on too long. I got a good amount of wear out of my makes and some of them are still with me now, but coming to the end of their life.
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.
Suede jacket to slipper boots refashion
Browsing in the £1 skip in a local charity shop I spotted a new suede jacket in a lovely duck egg blue.
However…. there was a catch, it was dirty, not from wear but dust soiled from storage, hence the low price.
I felt obliged to rescue it. It was from Marks and Spencer but not in my size, the plan was never to wear it but to make something from it – this jacket deserved a better fate than landfill. I know, I know, everything eventually goes to landfill but this seemed like a good opportunity to try a near zero risk leather project, the exact nature of which was as yet undecided.
It had to be cleaned somehow and cheaply. My default modus operandi is stick it in the washing machine on the usual cycle and see what happens but this time I cut a piece of sleeve off and hand washed it first – this went well, instilling sufficient confidence to shove the remaining parts of the jacket in the machine on a gentle cycle – this went slightly less well but not a disaster – and by this I mean that most of the worst of the dirt had gone but the suede was not quite as soft and buttery as before, it had gone a bit stiff and there were a few creases.
Via Love sewing magazine I acquired a pattern for Tilly and the buttons slipper boots. I did need some more slipper boots, suede would surely be a good fabric to make them from.
The jacket was made of panels and curved seams, these would have be incorporated into the pattern pieces. There was only just enough to make the slipper boots even after unpicking every possible seam. I couldn’t afford not to use the sections including the jacket pockets for example, and following grain lines never even came into it.
I was actually surprised how clean the suede was looking, once ironed on the wrong side it looked nicer and became more supple.
For the lining I used a leopard print scarf, inspired by the photos included in the instructions which showed a leopard print lining.
Suede was in meagre supply and I was obliged to unpick some top stitching embellishments which left holes, but that didn’t bother me as this was a low key project and a first try with a new material.
I did have a look for some suede and leather tips and already knew not to use pins but didn’t buy any special needles or thread, I did however increase my stitch length to 3.5 as recommended.
The suede sewed up really nicely. It seemed so have softened back to its prewashing softness from being handled. The jacket had narrow seam allowances which is possible and desirable with suede to conserve material. If I’d really wanted to I could have taken a narrower seam allowance with the suede but that would have thrown the sizing out and complicated matters.
In the above photo you can see the pockets which had to be sewn closed.
The feed dogs on my machine weren’t particularly keen on the thick scarf / suede combo on the soles, and I probably should have fitted the walking foot.
Shortly after this point I stopped paying much attention to the pattern instructions thinking I knew what to do, which lead to some unpicking and cursing.
Another point I want to make here is the mistake which it is to trim seam allowances before you are sure everything is correct. I much prefer to leave the seam allowances intact as long as possible, but pattern instructions do not anticipate our potential mistakes and always urge immediate seam allowance trimming or finishing.
I also find that after wearing a garment a few times there may be some extra small alterations to make so prefer not to finish seams and keep the full seam allowance intact until I am sure of the fit.
I added the fringe from the scarf as a stylish but impractical embellishment.
The boots do tend to sag in the ankle area and the sole is a bit too big, I may go back in and make it smaller especially around the toe, but overall quite a satisfying low risk experimental project.
Dress to raglan t-shirt refashion
I love sewing and refashioning its my hobby. I’ve tried no buying for a year and it was a useful learning curve. I am not ready to do it again, but my current position for is that I have enough clothes and don’t need any more yet my hobby is sewing – how to reconcile the two positions?
One answer I have given myself is to take the most unloved second hand items and refashion them, therefore enter this dress, reduced to £1 from £7 at a local charity shop. It’s not my size and I generally don’t gravitate to leopard print, but do like this blue version.
The fabric is a very stretchy 100% viscose knit, made in Turkey from French Connection, surely good for a t-shirt, no FBA required.
The dress was gathered with a belt from the same fabric, all the better for me to unpick.
After unpicking the belt gathering I draped what remained over myself and looked in the mirror – a t-shirt was definitely on. Not sure why this dress was so heavily reduced, it was quite nice as it was just too small for me.
At the start of this post I wanted to return to my refashion roots and not use any patterns but the truth is patterns have been tried and tested and likely to give a better result than anything I can do myself so I used a pattern https://www.itsalwaysautumn.com/the-easy-tee-raglan-sleeve-tutorial.html
as a base for the t-shirt. I like this pattern because the sleeves are in 2 pieces and are shaped over the shoulder.
I was able to cut the front and back using the original hem and side seams from the dress. NB as you would normally sew the side seams and under arm sleeves last on a raglan tee in one move, although I’d saved myself work in the side seam area it was more tricky to sew the under arm sleeve seams.
There wasn’t quite enough fabric left over to cut the sleeves so I used this contrast orange knit for one section – blue and orange are a perfect match right?
For the neckband I used the belt of the dress, it was the right width. I could probably have stretched it out a bit more but can live with it as it is.
The leopard print was considerably more stretchy than the orange floral and there was a lot of easing in to be done.
I recently signed up to patternreview.com and took advantage of one their free tutorials about easing in a sleeve – basically the technique is that instead of using gathering stitches you should always ease in using your fingers to manipulate the fabric. Watch the video to understand, explains better than I ever could.
I had enough leopard print fabric left to make the sleeves a bit longer using a piece from the cowl neck of the dress which as a bonus was already hemmed.
As what was the hem of the dress was now the hem of a t-shirt its a bit wide but I quite like it like that.
I do like this make, its so comfortable and an unusual colour for me.
On the hanger
And on me
Scalloped hem top refashion
I’m trying to perfect a FBA for myself and this simple top pattern seemed like a good one to use as a practice, and I could learn how to make a scalloped hem as well. I was making view E but added approx 2 inches to the length.
My starting pieces were these two items, both of which were just used as fabric.
The nice medium weight cotton skirt was bought last year in a charity shop sale for £3. Although it’s short, the gathers yielded a decent amount of fabric, originally from Zara.
This dress I would say, has a lot of typical features of a charity shop item
a) Its smaller than my size.
b) Its a going out item which has seen a few wears and is no longer in tip top going out condition.
c) Its from a mid range brand (Next)
d) There’s not really much refashion potential…. but wait, the skirt is quite full and in a useful floaty but non transparent tencel and as it was on the £1 rail it was duly bought.
I cut the skirt off the top half of the dress, there’s also a useful long white zip and a fancy button from the neck fasten which I’ll keep. The zip was good quality and white. It straddled both the white and black sections of the dress but the insertion had been so perfect that the white of the zip was completely invisible against the black fabric.
The roses skirt fabric was a slightly heavier weight than the black dress and was going to be easier to sew and work with, all the better to cut the sleeves and neck facings from.
As shown above I split both the front and back pattern pieces a couple of inches above the dart. The now rather large dart was a bit lower than in the original pattern due to the FBA. I’d also added a couple of inches in length to the top as it looked a bit short on the pattern illustration.
The instructions for the scalloped hem involved cutting and sewing an extra strip, interfacing it and sewing it onto the bottom of the top before sewing and cutting the scallop shape. I found other tutorials online which suggested making the scallop hem by cutting the top extra long then turning a long hem to make the scallop.
Probably because I’d messed around with a FBA on the pattern, even though I had widened the extra strip for the scallop piece, by the time I’d sewed it in place it was slightly wider than the actual hem which made one side scallop slightly imperfect but I decided to accept this collateral damage and move on.
I think adding the interfacing makes the scallop hem a bit stiff but the interfacing did make it easy to draw and sew the shapes, it would have been much more difficult on the black.
The FBA is not perfect yet, the darts are slightly too big and too high but its difficult to tell with the black matt fabric.
Bonus feature – the detail of RTW zip insertion.
Already mentioned is how well the dress zip was inserted by the manufacturer but the skirt zip (a lap zip this time) deserves a tribute as well. The bottom stop wasn’t just a few stitches sewn across the teeth but a neat tab made from lining fabric – I’ve preserved that feature for when I eventually use the zip myself.
Just look at this loop for the button, not made from twisted thread like I have done, but from a teeny tiny piece of lining. How on earth did they turn that through? Sadly that came out with the zip stitches so I won’t be able to re-use it.
Technicolour table runner trousers
This table runner had been in my stash for quite a while.
Bought at a jumble sale in a fairly upmarket area adjacent to mine, I was attracted by the colourful embroidery against the strong blue background.
There was no label and I wondered if it was an unwanted holiday souvenir from some exotic location.
This fabric is the product of a very clever loom because the reverse is plain blue, with just a few slubs of the embroidery threads visible.
I had auditioned this fabric many a time for projects past, but despite my hopes and dreams, it had never made the final cut .. …. until now.
As it was long and thin, trousers were to be the thing, combined with denim.
I was using this commercial pattern, given free with a magazine, having first made a shorts version toile to check the fit.
I was adapting the pattern to suit me by missing out the front fly and making a flat fronted version with a side zip.
Pattern makers always seem to want to mess with your mind.
First they bring you down a peg or two, or rather up a size or two by indicating from the given measurements that you are actually a couple of sizes bigger than you thought you were.
Swallowing your pride and making up the suggested size, you find that it is actually miles too big, so you end up ignoring measurements on the packet and making up the size you first thought of, well that’s what happens to me anyway.
There wasn’t enough fabric for all of the trousers but as this pattern had seams down the middle of the legs I was going to use the tablecloth to make the middle sections.
I was careful to lay out the pattern pieces to match the patterns up on the tablecloth.
This lovely soft pair of jeans, seen here with the pocket already removed, formerly residing in the other side of the wardrobe, were perfect for the outside legs. They were worn thin in parts but I thought this could be stabilised with some embroidery to compliment the table runner.
After having a go at hand embroidery, shashiko style,
I could see it was going to take an age and not look that good, so I turned to my machine. As it is actually named ‘décor computer’ there are a number of fancy stitches which it could complete and which I was relying on to strengthen the worn denim areas.
Everything was going well, I sewed the thing up, inserting the reclaimed zip from the jeans, and tried them on, the trousers were still a bit big.
At this stage there were 3 problems
1. The pattern matching was spot on at the back but off at the front.
2. I started to wonder if the trousers were looking like something a clown might wear.
3. The loose weave of the tablecloth was coming apart at the seams.
I scratched my head about the pattern matching before realising that the table runner was not symmetrical around the centre, and this had thrown the pattern off when it was sewn up. Too late now, I would have to live with it.
The carefully pressed seams would have to be re-inforced somehow. Once again my machine came to the rescue. It has an overlock stitch, which although on the main menu, I rarely use. I sewed over all the seams again using this stitch, which is like a running stitch and a zigzag combined. It is heavy on thread but useful for fraying fabrics and I made a mental note to use it more often in future. This also made the trousers a mm smaller over all seams, making the fit perfect.
Wanting the waistband to be comfortable (I want all my clothes to be comfortable) I found a slightly stretchy black denim from a previous refashion which I cut a strip of and folded over. I was going off pattern again here – my method was simpler but I admit looks a bit messy on the reverse – a commercial maker would cover all the mess with some pretty tape – I may bind it myself later.
I put the trousers on again and skipped around the house in them for 10 minutes – only the hem left to finish. When I took them off I noticed it was clear that the loose weave could not tolerate even the most minor strains. At the centre front seam, gaps were starting to appear. Nothing for it but more re-inforcements.
I selected some no stretch uncompromising ankara from my stash and anchored it to the denim parts of the seams to make a sort of bib to protect the belly and bum areas so that the centre seams were not under any strain whatsoever.
The effect of this was to take a little more off the size – its a good job they were a bit big in the first place.
At the hems I left a fashionable bit of fraying on the denim parts, mostly out of necessity to preserve the length.
I brazenly tried out my clown trousers at a roof garden in one of the most fashionable parts of town.
Bonus feature – Nordic tunic
During a local charity shop trip, I opened a drawer in a vintage dressing table which revealed that it was full of actual fabric. Most of it looked like home textiles but I bought a green flowery piece, I suspect dating from the 80’s, mostly just because I was surprised to find it on sale.
Using a commercial pattern I sewed up this item described on the cover as a nordic tunic, although I suspect this is just a way of making a simple dress sound more interesting.
It was a very quick sew, a couple of hours, quicker than most refashions I do, am considering making another. The pattern description suggests making it in different weights of fabric for different seasons and it is indeed versatile, being able to be worn with a jumper, t-shirt, or nothing underneath.
T- shirt to cardigan refashion
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.
Then 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 .
Cruise wear to cool wear
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Men’s shirt refashion
This shirt had been in my refashion pile for some time.
Once again its from Marks and Spencer, the fabric feels good quality, not too thin with a slightly silky feel to it, 100% cotton, made in Turkey.
I wanted to make a loose fitting top suitable for wearing in the recent hot weather.
The plan was to adapt this dress pattern, keeping as many seams from the shirt as possible.
I also wanted to add a contrast fabric for the neckline piece. It was going to be one of those back of the shirt becomes the front adaptations.
The pattern pieces fit on the shirt pretty well.
I had been reading about darts and decided to keep the darts from the pattern, this meant I couldn’t use the shirt side seams and that the front hem was now shorter than the back.
In RTW, darts are never in the right place for my shape, and from what I see on the street, its not just me. The dart tutorials said to pull the end of the dart back 1 or 2 inches from the bust point, which I did, but looking at the finished photos, maybe not quite enough.
The contrast neck piece went on well. It was supposed to have a layer of interfacing – which I didn’t have, but I used a plain piece of white fabric (from a different shirt) stabilised with a bit of hemming tape here and there, which worked.
The back of the blouse was supposed to have a zip inserted, but I had the buttons from the shirt. The zip was supposed to go all the way to the top of the neck facing but I decided to leave that part open, this way I can get it on over my head and never actually need to undo the buttons.
I tried it on (actually I had already tried on many times, I believe in trying on a lot), and wondered if sleeves would be a good idea or not – the pattern shows both sleeveless and with sleeves versions.
After sleeping on it, I went for the sleeves.
Here’s the finished blouse:
I am already thinking about making another like this only sleeveless, because I want to know how that would turn out, I like this contrast neckband arrangement, it gives a neat and eye catching finish.
I wore my new top while out trawling some local charity shops looking for items for future projects. I bought a men’s Hawaiian shirt and some fabric, which may or may not be intended for curtains.
On the next version I’m going to attempt some gathers under the neck piece or divide the dart into two and pull them out a bit more.