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.
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.
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 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.
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?