It Used to be a Tablecloth

1 usedtobeatablecloth

The barbarians are coming! They’re tearing hand-made heirlooms and (gasp)…. turning them to beach dresses!  Yes, those flimsy things destined to fade and be destroyed by suntan lotion in a mere summer or two.

#usedtobeatablecloth is a sewing challenge where we turn a tablecloth or some forgotten piece of household linen into something summery to wear. I’m taking part because I saw the lovely Little White Dress made by Etemi, the challenge host who blogs as The Secret Costumier, but also because on my second foray to the charity shops in search of suitable material, I got really lucky.  I found a tablecloth very similar to the one Etemi used. I don’t know whether it is indeed handmade – I doubt anyone would have parted with it if that’s the case – but it’s beautiful, if slightly spoilt by a light stain or two.  I found it folded on a rail and as I opened it up wondering if I could use it, an older woman came over admiring it and we struck up a conversation as she wondered how many hours of work went into it. I thought the tablecloth needed a chance of a more worthy owner and did actually ask the woman if she was interested in buying it.  She declined, saying she couldn’t be bothered with all the ironing.

1 tablecloth stillSo now it’s belongs to the barbarian.

Does it look familiar to you?  I’m pretty sure that in Croatia every house proud woman of a certain age has one: I seem to recall drinking glasses of squash at numerous tables adorned thus.

Soon as I’ve made it into a dress I will dye it a dark blue because I’m very much missing my dark blue perforated summer dress that Django the Hun* shredded.  I did a test with some remnants of dye powder to see if it would take and it worked very well.  Not only is the tablecloth made of a natural fibre (linen) but all that thread must be cotton as it took the dye too (I was hoping it would stay white as polyester thread does as the contrast would have looked beautiful).

client's dress close up

The target design

My plan is to make a version of a client’s dress that I altered a year ago.  I thought it was quite chic.  Being twice the age of the client, my dress will be less revealing but I’m aiming for a similar arrangement of rouleau strips, perfect for exposing the shoulders to the rays.  No bra will work with this but I don’t care….a back view

I prepared the pattern in next to no time using my block.  Inevitably, my drafted pattern doesn’t quite match up to the threadwork pattern of the tablecloth and I have already had to rethink the length of the skirt and the width too.  You could have a lot of fun with this, working out the different possibilities of where to place the laced parts.

Etemi is very lovely and her blog well written with clear, very appealing presentation.  We met in June in Goldhawk Road but it turned out I’d come across her before; her refashioned shirt was one of my favourites in the Refashioners Challenge 2015.  Do join us if you can: there’s ten days before the deadline and it’s a quick project – provided you have the right tablecloth.  The challenge post has all the details as well as helpful hints and images to inspire.

I have cut out my pattern pieces ready for the making and look, there’s enough tablecloth left for one or two more dresses! 1 leftovers

*not a barbarian but a Hungarian Viszla!

Bad Dress Rescue

1-horzYou just don’t know where inspiration will hit you.  I was walking past Laura Ashley – a shop from which I’ve never bought anything – when in the window I saw a dress very much like the one I made a year ago, lying crushed at the bottom of the mend pile.

1 Velvet Laura Ashley DressThe Laura Ashley velvet dress (reduced to £84) is dark blue with beads on the front arranged like flowers.  A  band of sheer (not that it shows here) fabric at the hem, double-sided, is a great solution if the dress you make is a bit short, though you may need to hunt around for the perfect match.  When I unpicked the hem that I’d hand sewn quite messily, I found enough length not to bother with a sheer panel.  Instead, I did as suggested in the original Blue Velvet post and used a bias strip of organza to hem the dress which required only 1cm off the dress’ length (the strip is turned under and catch-stitched).

Organza bias strip hem

Organza bias strip hem

I took me a couple of hours to add the beads, and that’s including a bit of practice on some scraps.  But my bead placement is different from the inspiration.  I put the dress on and looking in the mirror decided where to place the flowers, avoiding, ahem, ‘areas of controversy.’

Another improvement came via Kate who suggested not to molly-coddle the velvet but to allow it to age – and go boho.  I washed the dress and thinking ‘what have I got to lose?’ tumble dried it.  This fluffed up the nap and as a side-effect, the blue colour has deepened, i.e. not being as flat, it’s not as silvery and reflective.  Having said that, it’s all quite subtle and this is a difficult fabric to photograph!

1 dark blue

1 bveBut the best decision was to ditch the collar.  Initially, I’d fixated on the idea of making a velvet dress with a lace collar and, having got what I wanted, couldn’t admit it wasn’t working.  I’m sure you know the feeling, be it with dresses or relationships!  It made me feel prissy.  And also a little bit like a Jacobean gentleman 😯  I  could always see the collar ‘in me peripherals’ and it was giving me bad vibes.

But the collar is saved and will look nice on a T-shirty blouse, some day.

1t guido

Dark blue Organza: from Unique Fabrics, Goldhawk Road (which is where the original velvet was from).  I only bought 0.25m, as you can guess from the seam in the bias strip!

Dark blue beads from Beadworks, Covent Garden.

1 cluster

Men’s Shirt Refashion

1 refashion

 

Sleeve and bodice toiles
Sleeve and Bodice Toiles

I’d been experimenting with drafting a particular kind of sleeve and also working on a close-fitting bodice when Lesley alerted me to the Refashioners 2015, the Men’s Shirt Challenge.  This is a mass participation event with so many prizes that I haven’t yet been able to read the list to the end – I  keep getting terrifying premonitions of the winner being me then having to incorporate this treasure-like haul into my over-cluttered home   🙂

1 Marianna and the Giant ShirtI’ve long been a fan of  making stuff out of men’s shirts.  I cut up my husband’s work shirts whenever I get mad at him the cuffs get frayed and make something for my daughter: it’s by using such scraps that I first taught myself to sew!  But this challenge seemed a good opportunity to make my bodice and sleeves out of something attractively stripy so I turned to the local charity shops to buy a shirt in as large a size as I could get.  Would you believe that charity shops charge £5 or more for second-hand men’s shirts?  😯  Luckily this M&S behemoth (size 17in/43cm, easy fit) was just £3 as the cuffs and the collar were in a bit of a state (I really don’t see how they hope to sell such shirts, unless it’s for refashioning or fancy dress!).  The cotton is firm and fresh-smelling, with nicely defined grey pinstripes and variation in the weave of the thick white stripes (not sure what this is called).  There were two side pleats coming from the yoke at the back so extra fabric too!1 back view

1 sleeveAnd yet …  Just as in the previous ‘challenge’, in which I cut up a man’s jacket to make a skirt, I found my plans thwarted by a lack of materials.  Have you ever been in the situation when you’re constantly glancing around your cutting area and the floor, in case there’s one more piece of fabric you’d forgotten about that will save you!?  The result is that the sleeves aren’t as attractive as I’d intended and the top isn’t as  practical since the buttons had to go round the back which makes putting this garment on somewhat time-consuming.  But I do like it.  I’ve added a grosgrain tie and belt loops to break it up a bit, though I may revert to the plainer look: this is certainly something that will get a bit of wear in the next month or two before the woollens come out.  Look, I’ve even replaced the original yellowing buttons with smoky iridescent ones, which I think look great with the grey stripes.

1 new and old buttons

1 hip1 the refashioners 2015

But my favourite part is the little slits just over the hips.  Can you tell which part of the shirt they come from?

 

Cowgirl, Restructured

Levi 921 Restyled into Jean Jacket

Back View Jean Jacket Levi 921The idea of making a jacket out of jeans came from a picture found on Pinterest. I had a very worn pair of Levis, kept in case I needed to paint the walls (or something), so I thought I’d use them to see if it could be done. And yes, it can.  Though for full-length sleeves, you will need to start off with longer legs!  Alternatively, you can leave out or use less fabric in the ruffle.  1 Jumbo Topstitching

Levi  921 were my favourite ever jeans.  My jaw virtually dropped when I first saw them (in 2002 or 2003).  They had so-called ‘jumbo stitching’ and were a very deep blue (though later faded); the waist curved in and the rise wasn’t too low.  They felt great too.  The denim was proper cowgirl stuff, pulling the saddlebags in tightly (‘saddlebags’, if you don’t know, are the plump bits that look like hips but are lower than the bones and are actually formed from buttock overspill! 🙂  )  jumbo stitchingThe style wasn’t available for long unfortunately.  For the best part of the decade, boot-cut, stretch denim reigned, followed by the leggings-like skinny jeans we mostly wear today.  But I still buy a nearly new pair of Levi 921’s on Ebay sometimes.

Have you ever fallen in love with a design, or a product, only to find it discontinued?

Making a Jacket out of Jeans.

These notes are a supplement to the original instructions (follow the Pinterest link).

Ancient Pair of Levi 921If you want to give this a go, measure the waist of the jeans and your ribcage to make sure the waist will fit yours when the jeans are upside down.  Having said that, wearing this buttoned up (as in the last picture) just makes me feel a bit corseted so I prefer it like a bolero.

I made my first cut by measuring my waist to armhole length then cutting this from the waist down to the hips of the jeans, after first adding a seam allowance.  I put in bust darts but they weren’t necessary; in fact, the less done here, the better as you’ll preserve the rough-hewn denim effect.  For making the sleeves, I took a narrow-fitting sleeve from a dress pattern in the stash and cut them by working upwards from the hem of the jeans.

Most of the construction seams were done with matching blue thread.  Yellow topstitching was applied afterwards for decorative effect.

Step 1 The rear part will be stretched, bagging outwards so unpick the centre back seam and restitch to a flatter shape

The Beginning – The rear part will be stretched, bagging outwards so unpick the centre back seam and restitch to a flatter shape

Step 2 - Stich front pockets closed and cut away pocket bags

Don’t flap – Stich front pockets closed and cut away pocket bags

The Finetuning – Decide how much fabric to use in the collar and where to apply it. I experimented with some packing paper.

What do you think? I would like to try this again, with a different style of jeans and a neckline/hemline not so dictated by the original seams.

By the way, Happy Birthday to Moonchild Blogstalker who turns 10 tomorrow!It's the Blogstalker's Birthday

Cowgirl, Restructured

Ariel

 

1 Before and After1 beetleI found this top crammed into a sales rail at Dorothy Perkins some rainy day back in January or February.  At size 18, it was far too big but I decided to restyle it, which for £7 seemed a risk worth taking.  I was quite taken by its green beetle shimmer!  The original plan was to create something fabulous, inventive even, but during the cold weeks that followed, as I watched it swamping the dummy, the fabric took on an uninspiring sheen.  Here’s a picture of it looking like cellophane on me  🙁   I realised when seeing this picture that no matter what I made, it would be so clingy that I’d only be able to wear it with perfectly fitting bras – of which I don’t have many.1 Wipeout1 aSo I decided to do away with as much surplus fabric as possible.  In no time at all (an hour really) with the help of my Renfrew pattern, and by keeping the original neckline, I turned it into a sleek, sun-loving staple.  The colour and texture remind me of Ariel the Mermaid’s tail; in fact, I’m longing for a mane of red hair to set this off!

If you’re considering a project of this nature but are reluctant to start, remember that sewing stretchy jersey is not an exact science.  You can get away with some approximation.  Similarly, I’ve noticed that a couple of my favourite RTW T-Shirts don’t lie flat properly – the side seams twist around – yet the garments still look good and feel comfortable.  In other words, go for it.

1 ariel back

A tutorial (of sorts):

Notes:

  • I’ve kept the original neckline as I didn’t think it could be improved.
  • I’ve kept the original sleeve hem but the shirt body has been shortened.
  • Being without a serger, I used a long, narrow zigzag stitch, then trimmed the seams closely.
  • I used my Renfrew, possibly the world’s most boring pattern, which has more than earned its keep: I’ve pirated it a couple of times before (for a Pattern Magic project and on another baggy-to-sleek restyle).  But you can use any T-shirt you like (or vest) as your template.  If two seams don’t fit, stretch reasonably evenly till they do!
  • You can use offcuts for bindings if you like.  As my fabric is metallic, I used offcuts under my iron to see if I could press new seams.
Step 1 Lay top flat, find centre and align pattern onto it, shoulder seams matching

Step 1 Lay top flat, find centre and align pattern onto it, shoulder seams matching

Step 2: Separate the sleeves and side seams then draw the back pattern onto top

Step 2: Separate the sleeves and side seams then draw the back pattern onto top. Sew the side seams, finish and press.

Step 3: Decide on desired sleeve length.  I decided to keep original sleeve hem.  Fold sleeve pattern in half; it should be symmetrical

Step 3: Decide on desired sleeve length. I decided to keep original sleeve hem. Fold sleeve pattern in half; with a jersey sleeve, the pattern should be symmetrical.

Step 4: Cut sleeve

Step 4: Cut sleeve

Step 5: notch the sleeve, then pin to armhole, notch to shoulder seam and underarm to side seam.

Step 5: notch the top of sleeve, then pin sleeve to armhole, notch to shoulder seam and underarm to side seam. Stitch and trim.

And finally…

No, I haven’t forgotten the Savage Beauty postcard giveaway?  Sorry it took so long.  The winner is Fabrickated.  Thanks to all who entered  🙂

Mender Be!

1 capris

1t hole in carDo you rush from one new sewing project to the next while turning your back on an ever growing pile of not-quite-wearable items that could be put right in an hour or so?  Do bits of your children’s uniforms go missing at school because you can’t be bothered to sew on name tapes  – it’s too boring?  And has your husband been asking for months when you’re going to stitch up that hole in the car flooring which you gouged out driving in killer heels?!

Ok, so that last one is a bit specific 🙂 but if the above ring true, then  you’re like me.  When you could be like Lesley, who first fixes something from the unglamorous pile.   In ‘Mending is Good for the Psyche’, Lesley says: the mending can be anything big or small, sometimes the thing I mend is very quick, it depends on how much time I have, but I feel justified in moving on to other more exciting projects having completed my ‘work’.  How sensible is that, not to mention virtuous!  I’m thinking of adopting Lesley’s strategy though it’ll take some discipline.

Here’s a quick embellishment project in which I mended a situation.  Last year, I bought some Primark jeans and I’ve been looking at them ever since.  Initially attracted by their colour and cheapness, I tried them on in the changing room and they seemed to adequately cover my backside – a rare treat in low-rise skinnies.  Unfortunately, within minutes of putting them on for wearing (i.e. walking and sitting down, rather than standing in a changing room) the fabric, which is a cotton and polyester mix with 1% Lycra, would stretch and stretch turning the jeans saggy and turning my mood instantly to drab.  It seemed cruel to pass them on to a charity shop for some other schmuck to buy, thinking she’d grabbed herself a bargain, so I eventually pressed them flat inside out and sewed 1cm into the outer seam, from the hip rivet to just below the knee.  So now they fit better, like slightly wrinkly running tights, but with spring in the air, I no longer needed tight jeans.  I needed something frivolous and summery, like these jeans cut into capris that I spotted on Pinterest (click on pic for tutorial): 1 original plan

I planned on using leather instead of bias binding (I hear you’re getting sick of my ever-giving bundle of leather.  Me too!).  Unfortunately – and I wonder how I didn’t foresee this – leather straps when folded like bias strips end up really thick and don’t tie so well…  So then I thought I’d do a button trick recently pulled by  Tialys, so I cut the ties, closed the keyhole and covered up raw edges with two buttons.  This looked well cute but now the leg openings were so tight around my calves, we had to call an ambulance!  1 Warts and all

Once I was cut free, the capris were shorter still, but I remade the keyholes further up and used straight 3cm leather ribbons as ties.

I just about got away with it.  I think!

 1 Side capris

The tutorial

– The optimal hem length for capris is below the widest part of your calf muscle.  For me, this would mean an inside leg length of 54.5cm (but my final version is above the calf muscle, on account of things going wrong…). Never cut at the widest part of the leg.

– This is a straight-forward hemming with bias binding procedure without finesse; you probably don’t need a tute at all, but if you’re a beginner and something’s not clear, just ask!

– To make denim bias binding for the keyhole, I used the leg cut offs.  I had to join two pieces to have sufficient length of binding for each keyhole.

– For the topstitching in the final step, I used tough upholstery thread and a new (sharp) leather needle.

– This would look charming with 3cm double-sided strips made of patterned lawn/poplin  or denim on the reverse.

Ok, here we go:

4cm denim bias binding made of cut offs

Step 1: make 1cm bias binding out of 4cm strips. Length required = length of keyhole plus 2cm, more if you can spare. One for each leg!

Draw a keyhole shape on bottom side seam.  Try on the jeans.  If the keyhole stretches too much, redraw.  Stich along line to staystich then cut close to the stitching line.

Step 2: Hem jeans to desired length *not shown, sorry * Draw a keyhole shape on bottom of side seam. Try on the jeans. If the keyhole stretches too wide once your jeans are on, redraw. Stich along line to staystich then cut close to the stitching line.

1 strips of leather or ribbon 3cm by 19cm approx

Step 3: Prepare strips or ribbons, 2 for each leg. These are leather: 3cm by 19cm each. Fabric strips can be shorter as the knots will be less thick.

1 pin leather with bias binding to keyhole

Step 4 a): Pin right side leather to right side garment. Pin bias binding to the wrong side, 1cm folded under

1 wrong side

Step 4 b); view on wrong side. Stitch along 1cm line. Before reaching opposite end of keyhole, arrange second leather strip right sides together as in Step 4 a) and fold bias strip under 1cm then stitch to end.

1 rightside, pinned for topstitching

Step 5: on right side, pin and topstitch the bias binding. Fold strips/ribbons back over the keyhole and topstitch. Use contrasting thread if you like.

1 leather ribbon capri embellishment detail

Finished: a bit rough-hewn but quick and effective.

I’ve another hardly worn pair of jeans – flares from Boden, in fact — that I’d like to restyle.  If you have any nice ideas, let me know!

Renfrew to the Rescue

1 Shroud

I’d been schlepping around town for too long, was probably dehydrated and unable to think straight when I bought this hideosity.  Look how it hangs over the dummy’s curves.  You’d be forgiven for thinking it was some kind of podgy Grim Reaper in there.

Le GarrotteSewn inside the neckline is a strip of ribbon designed to help the garment stay on the hanger.  Does anyone know if this helpful feature has a name?  I know what I‘d call it!  Is it just me who manages to nearly get garrotted whenever I put on a top like this?

1 NECKI decided to give the shroud a new lease of life because I liked its faux leather neck binding and I think the centre front/centre back seams are a nice touch.  The end result is not quite stunning but it’s much more flattering and endlessly wearable with my many bright skirts.  And I get to keep the centre seams and neckline!

1 RR AFTER

How To:

You will need: a baggy jersey top with dropped sleeves, a close-fitting T-shirt pattern (mine is Sewaholic Renfrew), a ballpoint needle, a machine or overlocker and thread.

1.  Cut off the sleeves.  Try them on to see if they fit to the top of your arms then put aside.

1 hOW TO2. Cut the side seams (the shoulder seam should stay).

3. Lay the top as flat as you can.  Place your bodice front pattern on top, centre lines matching, then cut around it.  Both centre fronts should match and the shoulder/armscye lengths should also be equal.  Flip the pattern piece over and cut around the other side.  Keep the cut-off fabric in case you want to make a pocket.

4.  Repeat step 3 on the back.

5.  Sew the side seams together.

6. Hem the bottom.

7. Attach the sleeves, pinning them first and matching each underarm seams to the side seam.  You may need to stretch one or the other to make the sleeve circumference and the armscye fit.  Luckily, jersey is forgiving.

1 RRON