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