Monday, 18 August 2014

Practical Sewing, Ten ideas to get more out of your clothes

I have been doing a number of sewing jobs this week some of them for other people but all involved existing items. On Friday I had a request from a friend to turn a floor length evening gown into a knee length pencil dress. This request was made and needed for the following day for a wedding, so completed straight away and tried on and picked up later.   Due to the urgency I forgot (or did not have time) for photographs of the before and after which is a shame because I like to show that you don't always need to buy new stuff.
My friend has assured me she would take some so will post these another day, I also had to shorten a maxi dress for my mum, she doesn't usually wear these but saw it for her holiday for £5 and couldn't resist.

Finally I have taken in a couple of my T shirts that were getting a bit loose due to wear, they were still good colours and nothing else wrong with them they had just lost a bit of shape and a little taking in and a press of the seams made them look good again.

Sometimes the sewing I do is not all that exciting but it is necessary, saves money  and often helps out others and sometimes makes me a bit extra too.  I think sometimes we have to go and have a look at our wardrobe with new eyes before going shopping. My friend certainly did not have the funds for a new wedding outfit this week but I think she felt she had one after we altered her existing dress.  Some of your clothes may just need a little bit of adjusting to bring them up to date.

While I do enjoy making something altogether from the start a lot of the time we just don't have enough  fabric to do this do we? Unless you have a fabric addiction and buy it all the time as some other bloggers seem to confess to but I'm trying to save money here also so that is not an option.  I have two large pieces of fabric for projects bought a while ago and will be starting one later but after that it will be cautious purchases only or charity shop finds ( always good for cheap fabric)

So with that said I think sewing comes in very handy for refashioning items we already have, making things fit that may have been passed on or bought in charity shops and generally saving us money while allowing us to have an interest in fashion that is affordable.

I have said before I like to layer tops and dresses in the autumn winter but what about doing that in the summer also with vest tops and T shirts, I know a lot of people don't like to show their arms but don't let that stop you from wearing strappy clothes. A thin top underneath or maybe make small sleeves with fabric you have already or from another item.  I wouldn't worry about making mistakes because if you would never wear the item as is, then what have you got to lose?

The top with the wolf in the above picture shows tummy if worn with low slung jeans as many are now, this bothers me so I wear it with a top underneath in the autumn. You don't need to get rid of items just rethink them.

Ten ideas to get more out of your clothes

  1. Add darts and fit to baggy items to make them more structured.
  2. Shorten Maxi dresses, use the left over fabric to add detail at the top, make tie belt or straps.
  3. Change buttons, sometimes a contrast colour can really change the look.
  4. Experiment with sleeves, take them off, shorten them, add elastic, or in reverse make new ones in a different colour  of fabric and add them to strappy tops or dresses.
  5. Add a layer to a dress or skirt that is too short. This make take some thought but a few inches can sometimes save an item form being discarded. Look at fashion images online for inspiration but don't be tempted to buy!
  6. Turn jumpers into cardigans, not as tricky as it sounds, tight knit shop bought ones don't usually unravel easily,  take care to cut straight at the the front and either overlock or zig zag firmly on a small stitch or bind with ribbon or tape and fold back to hem. Add buttons or fasteners of your choice.
  7. Try things on with lots of other things you wouldn't usually put together, add belts and scarves.  
  8. Add trims, ribbon or lace on the hem or at the neck. Be subtle with this maybe use the same colour tone as going overboard I think can date things. It is good for disguising mistakes or not too perfect necklines though.
  9.   Turn old jeans into shorts, everyone should do this as even if you only do gardening in them they will always get used! Also if you have a very short dress that you don't' wear because of the length, pop on a pair of cropped jeans underneath and the length is no longer an issue. How short you go is entirely up to you, as is whether or not you hem them or let them fray.
  10. Gaping necks on tops or dresses should never be a problem. A few stitches can sort that out! Take up shoulders if neck is too low at the front (length allowing of course) Add fake panel or lace on a very low v neck, sometimes strategically placed darts at either side of neck can sort out sagging issues. The no stitch option of course or if you really don't want to change the neckline is wear something under it, like here...

I love the colours on this dress but the neck gapes open, due to the panel below the bust raising the shoulders at all would result in that seam line cutting across the bust. Also any alteration to the wrap over feature would affect the fall of the pleats. Solution to this was to simply wear a sun top underneath, luckily I had one that goes perfect but failing that I had a white one which would also do the trick.
(I bought this dress about 4 years ago in a charity shop for £3, originally from Wharehouse)

So even if your fabric stash is getting a bit low I hope that has given you something to think about before you go out and buy more clothes or fabric.  See what you can do with your existing items and I would love to hear about it.


  1. Really useful tips, thank you

  2. This is such a fabulous post, so many great ideas, thank you so much.
    I will look at my wardrobe with new eyes now. I am going to print out this page and use it for future reference.
    I live in the US and have noticed from watching the UK soaps on You Tube, that European fashions are distantly different to what I see in my home town (Dallas). I love the layered look.
    Many thanks again I will look forward to your future posts.
    Pam in TX.xx

  3. Thank you Pam. I'm glad it was helpful, let me know how you get on. xx


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