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.
A friend gave me a number of items to refashion, one of them was this dress.
The fabric was a very light and stretchy 96% viscose 4% elastane, made in India.
The maker was the Spanish brand Indiwoman by individual.
My friend said she liked the fabric of this dress but it didn’t hang right, and when I tried it on I could see what she meant.
While not terrible, it was a bit too short and had an unflattering belly area. Also while I do like a wrap top I usually end up sewing them shut to avoid the inevitable bra revealing gape.
The shoulders and sleeves were good so I was going to keep them.
First stage was to unpick the seam at the waist to free up the top section.
I sewed the wrap front shut to make a regular V neck and trimmed off the excess.
Let me say now, I strongly believe in trying on at every stage of a refashion. When I don’t try on I make mistakes. I must have tried this top on about 20 times during the course of the refashion process and don’t regret any of them.
I was hoping to make a dress by adding an alternative skirt section. This was mainly because I already have a lot of tops.
I auditioned a rather attractive table runner bought in a jumble sale a couple of years ago.
Although tempted, and the resulting dress would have been dramatic, in the end I decided that because the fabric of the original dress was so light, there was a danger of it being pulled down by the weight of any heavier fabric. I also may not be brave enough to wear a table cloth out to dinner.
So it had to be a top.
I cut off the bottom section of the dress below the pockets. I know pockets are useful but not in a top.
Then sewed the bottom of the dress onto the now closed upper section, trimming some length and width to make it the right size.
I tried this new top on and it looked OK but a bit boring.
I rummaged in my stash for this trim, previously removed from a skirt waistband.
I draped it around the neck and it looked good, especially the way the point fitted the middle of the V.
After a few goes to get the trim to lie flat when being worn, I am now happy with the result, hope my friend is too. I am quite pleased the joins are not obvious.
I wore the top on a recent trip to Northern Ireland
I had some pink flowery stretch jersey fabric in mind to make up a top using the Walkley pattern, originally given free with a magazine.
This design is very simple, just 2 pieces the same back and front, but the boat neck was a bit too wide the first time I made it. Other users of the pattern had also reported the same problem of a too wide neck.
Some adjustments were made to the shoulders and neck on the pattern which made the neck narrower. Before cutting out my flowery fabric, which was a rather small piece with no room for error, I decided to make up a toile to test if the pattern adjustments had worked.
Using a men’s t-shirt from my stash the upper section of the design was constructed, up to just under the armholes. I am glad I did this because further modifications were needed to correct some gape at the neckline, job done.
After a few days had passed, I wondered if there was some way I could make this practice half piece into a wearable item. I found a turquoise t-shirt in my stash, cut out the bottom part of the design, and sewed it onto the top half.
Clearly this was never going to produce a perfect result because you would normally sew the pieces together to make a complete back or front first. What really spoilt it was that the top t-shirt had a small white stripe in it and the stripe placement at the join hadn’t worked out well. At first I tried to re-sew the top and bottom halves together along a stripe but this just meant one side of the t-shirt was longer than the other.
The only answer seemed to be to cover up the mess in some way.
I had noticed that a lot of items in the shops at the moment have frills sewn on in a late 70’s sort of way. A frill in the middle of my creation would do the cover up job perfectly.
I cut out a strip of fabric 4 in wide from the turquoise t-shirt , hemmed it, and stitched it on, pleating as I went along, to make a frill.
The result is erm.. acceptable, it is never going to be anything other than casual wear but too good to go in the bin, I don’t like to waste fabric if I can help it even if its just a couple of old t-shirts.
The frill placement is not quite straight, so it covers the white lines, but its not very obvious when its being worn.
Here is the other top, for which the one above was a practice. It is made up in a flowery stretch knit fabric, bought in Norway last year. Its a photo like cherry blossom print.
There was some urgency involved in its construction because I was on holiday with a friend when I bought the fabric and was meeting her again very soon, so I had to get this top made quickly if I wasn’t going to miss a showing off opportunity.
This top is a refashion of a refashion.
Here is the previous transformation:
This was one of my favourite refashions to wear, I liked the linen I liked the blue, I liked the check trim.
On its last pass though the laundry I decided the armpits and rope neckline were too worn to be seen out in public again.
I had an idea to replace those worn out elements with some contrasting pink fabric (also linen but with a slightly closer weave) from my stash, and also set myself the challenge to complete the whole thing in 3 hours which is quick for me.
The first step was to cut off the worn out elements which just left a short hemmed and finished tube.
I sewed on a couple of fabric panels to lengthen the tube roughly the right size to have enough fabric to make a simple straight up and down top.
At this rough and ready stage I ‘tried it on’ get an idea where the join was going to fall, I didn’t want it to be on the bust apex, and to find out where the armpits should be.
I sewed up the sides and top of the pink bits to make rough armholes and a neck, then tried on again. Some unpicking and readjusting was involved to get things in the right place ( I had anticipated this and not backstitched) and I obviously needed to do something to develop the neckline.
For the neck, which was currently much too high, I marked the centre front and cut down a 2 inch slit which was then folded under like so. I re-attached the Superdry label for interest as it seemed to look right with the point of the triangle at the middle of the neckline.
For the back of neck I cut a shorter 1 inch slit but folded under in the same way, creating a sort of diamond shape for the neck. Its a bit rough on the inside but it will do. I considered folding the fabric to the outside to make a collar but this would be more time consuming and more likely to go wrong.
Finally, I hemmed the armholes using a zig sag stitch, took the side seams in a little to make the fit a little snugger and added a few hand stiches in some places to tidy up.
I quite like this experimental method of making by continuous refitting and the whole process was quite quick.
I already like this new version of the old tunic.
I am 4 months into my ‘no new clothes year’ but I missed sewing, you can’t really get that much sewing satisfaction from darning a pair of socks.
The bag was made from things I already had.
I found this tutorial for a Japanese knot bag and it was simple to construct in a few hours.
There’s a great bit of magic at the end when you turn the bag through a small hole on the short strap and it all comes together.
The main fabric was bought a couple of years ago in a local market, 6 yards of the stuff so I was glad to find a project to use some up.
The bag is reversible but I only used an old sheet for one side so that is always going to be the lining.
I added a pocket to both sides, before sewing up. The main pocket used to be a ‘bib’ section of a t-shirt given to me by my daughter, and the inner pocket was cut from a pair of trousers bought at a jumble sale.
I didn’t bother downloading the pattern, you can see what the shapes are and draw your own according to what size bag you want.
The next time I would make the bag shape a bit less round as it would hang better.
I am planning to use my bag on holidays when a handbag isn’t quite big enough.
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?
I bought this long skirt because I was attracted to the large amount of fabric and attractive border and it cost me £3.49, which was 10% of the original, still attached, price tag of £35.
The fabric was 100% polyester and there was a short gauzy white underskirt which I ended up using for facings.
My plan was to make a top, using a pattern given to me by a friend, incorporating the border of the skirt and the original hem.
The fabric was very light and floaty and the brand was ‘Glamorous’, one I had never heard of. I looked it up and it appears to be an online shop of the type that claims to offer massive discounts. I don’t think that glamorous would have been my first choice of description for the original skirt though.
When I started cutting the pattern pieces out, it became obvious that this fabric was trouble. It slipped and frayed all over the place, even after weighing it down in every place possible.
My newly and expensively purchased ‘walking foot’ did help in the actual sewing though.
Here is the finished top. It will be good for travelling light because it takes up only the space of a light scarf and doesn’t really crease.
Bonus feature: Refashionables in Modern Art
On a recent trip to Tate Liverpool I was drawn to the above exhibit by Michelangelo Pistoletto entitled ‘Venus of the rags’ . The description describes the mound of clothes as ‘the detritus of modern society’ but I was thinking ‘that looks like a rather nice vintage scarf’