somewhat visibly mended shirt

The project

Mend small tears in a shirt caused by wear and strain.

Why I chose to mend it when I did

Not long ago, I noticed that this summery linen-cotton shirt of G’s had become damaged and I put it in the mending pile but I wasn’t quite sure what fabric I’d use for the patch. A little while later I was reorganising my sewing stuff and fabric scraps and came across an off-cut from when I shortened this shirt along with the three others G has in the same style. In essence, that eliminated a decision, making the project feel easier.

Then the other day, I was washing those other three shirts and, noting this one’s absence, asked him if he knew where it was. It took a while for me to clue in.

Anyway, it’s perfect weather for this shirt so I figured I should get it back into circulation before the weather turns cool again.

The process

I already had fabric that matched perfectly. Next was to choose the thread. I looked at my collection of heavier threads and embroidery floss and found a white linen as well as a pale blue linen (both actually intended for weaving rather than sewing) that was pretty much a perfect match. (My pointless superpower is always having matching thread.) I preferred the white. It’s “somewhat visibly mended” because I wasn’t trying to make it invisible, but I also didn’t want to make it into a big feature because G prefers low contrast looks.

I rotated the patch so the stripes were perpendicular to the body of the shirt, partly for visual interest and partly because it would look weird to me if the stripes didn’t match up and there’s no way they’d match up. I tacked down the remainder of the patch using running stitches to strengthen the whole area, which was rather worn. (Technique inspired by Mending Matters,  discussed here.)

Then, as I was about to toss the shirt into the wash, I noticed the other tear, which I’d known about but forgotten. Damn.

If you want proof as to why it’s a bad idea to stitch down pleats, look no further. The back pleat is supposed to give extra room for movement through the shoulders. Stitch down the pleat, lose that room. Duh. When I originally noticed the tear in this shirt, I immediately ripped out the stitching in the other three. I don’t need to do any more patching than absolutely necessary!

The back patch was very similar to the front patch except for the placement: the front patch location was informed by the presence of the placket, while the back patch needed to relate to the (now-released) pleat. The back patch is virtually centred on the hole. It didn’t seem necessary to tack down this patch, not least because the source of the strain had been removed.

I glued this patch in place with a glue stick rather than pinning.

As it happens, I discovered this article yesterday via FB: The life changing magic of making do. “[G]etting mileage from our things should at least engender a sense of pride, and of mastery,” and for me it definitely does. Odd as it seems, it takes effort and skill to completely use something up, and I enjoy that sense of accomplishment.

it’s curtains for you!

My husband asked me to make him some sheer curtains for his south-facing dorm room in the UK. He has black-out curtains, but nothing to both allow light in and block direct sun. (Yes, they do get direct sun occasionally.)

He brought me some measurements and I made two curtains out of thin linen-cotton that’s been in the stash for ages (the same stuff that I used for the garment bags). I figured that two selvage-to-selvage pieces would be wide enough, and that way there’s no finishing required on the sides. Top and bottom were folded twice and stitched.

He doesn’t want to tie the sheers directly to the existing curtain rod, because he’d have to untie them every time he wanted to close the black-out curtains. Instead, he wants to attach the sheers to the brackets supporting the rod, so hopefully he can continue to open and close the curtains as usual. I made ties using my tape maker and placed them where we figure the brackets are.

Here’s the pair of curtains. Super boring photo, right?


So we decided to spice it up a bit.


By the way, that one item in the foreground is NOT REAL! Cannot stress this enough!

stash -3.0 m

garment bags, round 2: for long, full skirts

I have two very full, ankle-length tiered skirts for dance. In my current group, black is verboten, so my black skirt gets very little use and has been starting literally to collect dust. My red skirt gets used regularly, but that still means a maximum of about once a month. I rarely wash them: I always have an under layer, which keeps the skirt away from skin; they’re linen and washing changes the finish; and they’re rather a bother to dry (definitely not going in the dryer!). Also, packing them in my trunk with my other (cotton) costume skirts would leave me with a wrinkled mess.

A garment bag like the ones I made recently (edges straight down from the ends of the hanger) wouldn’t work because of the fullness at the bottom of the skirt. They’re both 12m around the hem. I wanted the minimum of fabric around the hanger, but I needed more at the bottom so as not to squash the hem. I measured loosely around the hem of the skirt as it hangs on the hanger and came up with a measurement of roughly 45″/115cm. Around the top of the hanger plus a bit of ease worked out to 30″/76cm.

How then should I go about widening from 30″ to 45″? I took inspiration from my own skirts. I did a yoke piece with the smaller measurement and sewed on the bottom piece, controlling the (limited) fullness with pleats. Although I used knife pleats in these skirts, my non-costume skirts use inverted box pleats. I pinned the pieces and found that the fullness was easily controlled by a single set of inverted box pleats.


The length of the bag was again dictated by the width of the fabric. I put one selvage at the hem. Because of the yoke piece, I had a choice of whether to put the other selvage at the top edge or the yoke seam. I chose the latter, then used the selvage to self-bind the yoke seam.


stash -2.3 m

garment bags

I have a few items in my closet that don’t get much use, so I thought I’d make some garment bags to keep the dust off.

I traced a hanger, straightened the lines, and added “ease” and seam allowance. (Note for next time – could have used a bit more ease.) for fabric, I used a white linen-cotton blend from the stash. I had bought quite a quantity of this, thinking that it would be perfect for SCA undertunics; I made 2 and then started working with 100% linen, leaving me with metres of the linen-cotton to get through.


Selvage to selvage makes a good length. Having a selvage at the bottom means no hemming.


stash -2.0 m

shirt shortening, round 1

Here’s another low-risk project to get the sewing juices flowing.

My husband bought four linen-cotton shirts – same cut, different colours – something like 5 years ago. He once mentioned that he found them a little long and if I felt like shortening them, it wouldn’t go amiss. At least I think that’s what he said – I probably wasn’t paying attention 😉

I successfully shortened all 4 shirts over the course of a week and a half. And the rather long initial delay followed by the choice to do them now has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I have a few shirts of my own that I’ve decided to shorten, nor the idea that it might be wise to have a go at a simple shortening operation before tackling my own shirts, which require some manner of reshaping. Nothing at all.

It seems to me that the main reason why I didn’t jump in on this alteration in the first place was because I got overwhelmed with picky, non-structural details. One intimidating detail was the odd little rectangular patch wrapping front-to-back around the hem at the side seams; I expected grief from fiddling with little bits of fabric, trying to press straight SAs, and negotiating thick and thin bits. I gave myself permission to just skip them.

The other item was a little hem detail at the bottom of the buttonhole placket where the raw edge is folded to the wrong side in such a way as to make a little triangle. I didn’t know how it was done and it seemed wrong somehow to just cut it off. I opened it up and figured it out and I decided (a) I kinda liked the look, and more importantly (b) it was actually quite easy. In fact, it’s a rather tidy alternative to the double-fold hem through a squillion layers – provided the shirt has a separate placket piece.

One of the shirts before shortening. He’s 6’/185cm tall, but the shirt this length makes him look a little schlumpy (though in this photo it doesn’t look too bad).

I got M to put on one of the shirts and eyeball how much shorter it should be. I added back ½” out of an abundance of caution, then remembered to allow another ½” for the hem allowance. The contour of the shirttail hem is the same.

When it came time to finish the hem, I pressed up the ½”, then folded the raw edge in and pressed again. The linen-cotton blend pressed beautifully. As it happens, the new hem width was pretty much bang on the same as the original. I used the same stitch length too, which worked out to about 1.8 – pretty small but an apparent indicator of good quality. The finished bottom edge is now 3″ higher than it was.

The shirt after. The trousers are the same cut in both photos. Most obvious difference is where the hem falls in relation to the cuff.

Each shirt took between around 60-90 min. While it got rather dull by shirt #4, it’s nice to have a project where you know how to do each step. Even if it is for someone else.

Shortened shirts.

Shirts 1 and 3 are woven stripes. Shirt 4 is solid. Shirt 2 is shot – red with white for a pink effect. Funny thing: I have reached critical mass with thread such that I almost always have a decent match on hand for any project, even if it’s not a perfect match. But I generally hate pink, so the best thread I had was the neon candyfloss colour that I bought because it was on sale and hideous, and would therefore be visible as basting on anything I might possibly make.

Also, it was Noko’s 19th birthday yesterday (as near as I can figure), so here’s a slightly out-of-focus Noko who is happy to be getting skritches.

Noko enjoying skritches.

navy pleated skirt

Since my last post, I have actually found my sewing mojo again. It was in a pile of low-risk projects, starting with this one.

My one skirt doesn’t ordinarily get a lot of love because it is the coolest (temperature-wise) thing I own and we don’t get that much truly hot weather around here. It got hot for a week or two though, I don’t have air con at home and we didn’t have at work either (though it’s been installed since), so the skirt was seeing a fair amount of use. As the print is rather memorable and I’m not going to wear the same thing all week, much as I may like to, I figured another pleated skirt was in order.

The first version was a complete success – a happy accident, really. I was satisfied with the design, but the fact that the fabric I chose (quilting cotton in the bargain section) had good weight and body for that design was mostly luck.

A couple of months later, I tried a second version using three different fabrics, all quilting cotton, which were leftovers from a full-length skirt I had made for dance. I assembled them in tiers in the same order as the original skirt: plain red for the yoke and much of the bottom, then a red scale pattern, then a larger red pattern with a variety of motifs. This was less successful: I didn’t like all the different patterns in one knee-length skirt, and the seams made the skirt a bit too stiff and it didn’t hang how I wanted it to. Also, I wasn’t expecting to see the structure of the pleats so much, as they had been mostly hidden in the pattern of the first iteration. It wasn’t a complete disaster, but it wasn’t what I wanted and I only wore it a couple of times.

For this third skirt, I thought I’d try an experiment with a different fabric to see how it draped, in a basic colour so that it might turn into a wardrobe staple.

I sketched it out on a Saturday and finished it on the following Wednesday morning so I could wear it that day. This is lightning speed, people! Oh, such a treat to have a clue what I’m doing and not have to worry about fit.

The fabric this time is navy linen-cotton from the stash – a rather small amount from a rather large bolt that a friend gave me almost 2 years ago. I had bought a navy linen skirt on sale at the Gap a few years ago but never quite liked it, though I thought a navy skirt was still worth a try.

Navy Gap skirt. Gathered to a yoke, same length front and back, a little longer than knee length. Yoke too long. Looks not-terrible here, but I still don’t think I like it enough to keep it, whether I try to alter it for length or not.

There are three basic pieces: yoke, skirt front and skirt back. I decided to try an inseam pocket this time. I’ve modified the shape of the pocket slightly so that I could get both pieces out of the scrap I had:

Pocket pieces. What’s left is almost all of the waste for this project.

I put the pocket into the right side seam, below the level of the yoke seam, because I didn’t want to contend with crossing that seam.

The yoke is a cylinder with a drawstring at the top, slightly lower at CF. The skirt bottom is a bigger cylinder comprising two selvage-to-selvage panels of the appropriate length (to the knee + a deep hem allowance), pleated onto the yoke. Skirts 1 and 2 were made with fabric that was about 45″/110 cm wide, while this fabric is more like 54″/135 cm. No worries – the design stays the same and the pleats are just a little deeper.

Navy pleated skirt.

I’ve now worn it a few times, and I’ve realised that I don’t quite love it. Some observations:

  • I didn’t notice at first that the fabric is actually kinda scratchy. I’m hoping this softens a bit in the wash, but I’m not holding my breath.
  • The inseam pocket looks good, in that you can’t really see it, but it feels low and it flops around because of the looseness of the skirt and the fact that the pocket doesn’t connect to a horizontal seam at the top. Still, it’s nice to have a pocket for my lipbalm.
  • The colour is dark enough that the structural details of the pleats are not overly visible, although this time I don’t think I’d mind if they were a little more visible.
  • The fabric is noticeably wider and stiffer than what I used before. Not bad, just different. The skirt hangs a little fuller than my first one. However, the fact that it also feels heavier and warmer means that I haven’t been to keen to wear it as hot weather gear, which was kind of the point. We’ll see how it works in the fall.
  • I think I’m pretty much off black, and I was thinking that navy might replace black for me. However, it feels too dark, too saturated, too serious, too conservative. Two of these points surprise me. I don’t recall ever complaining about a colour being too saturated, and I know I’ve said I like certain colours for that precise reason – though they were admittedly lighter than navy. I tend to be a serious person, so you’d think serious clothes would work; maybe I’m less serious than navy, or maybe it just feels too heavy for summer. Also, I still have a lot of black in my wardrobe and I think this runs too close to black to feel sufficiently novel.

stash -1.5m

Noko, who will be 19 in a couple of weeks.

grey trousers revisited

I made these trousers shortly before I started blogging and never posted about having made them as the intention of the blog was to encourage me to make new stuff, rather than talk about old stuff – not that I’ve stuck with that religiously or anything.

This was the first pair of pants that I made using the fitting shell that I got help with. I was excited to use a pattern that was properly fitted to me, so when it didn’t turn out very well, I was disappointed.

As I mentioned elsewhere, the fabric (a light to medium weight linen-cotton blend) is rather lighter and has a different hand than the fabric of the fitting shell (medium weight poly-cotton twill). I made up the trousers according to the pattern and found them big, but I figured that the problem was that I was using the “wrong fabric” and I hoped that a belt would more or less fix things. Umm, no. Of course, I could only find this out after having put on a waistband and belt loops. Sigh.

A bit shapeless, and excess width is apparent at waist. Belt loops and waistband have been removed.
Excess width is apparent at waist. Otherwise, not horrendous.
Excess width still apparent at waist. Wrinkling at back crotch and upper thigh points to insufficient length at back crotch point, I think.

I had thought that, because the fabric was linen-cotton and fairly lightweight and thus summery, I should make the trousers on the wider side. However, I’m now starting to think that unless the fabric drapes like mad, wide trousers and I shouldn’t mix. In preparation for this revision, I compared the recommended minimum wearing ease for waist, hip, thigh (1″, 2-3″, 2-3″) to the actual ease of the trousers (3″, 5″, 3″). By any account the waist ease is excessive, which I somehow hadn’t noticed before. The reason for this, I suspect, is that trousers that fit my bottom and thighs are always way loose in the waist. In other words, I likely didn’t spot the problem right away because all my pants do this!

Took off the belt loops and waistband, then sewed a new outseam a whopping ½” from the old, which took off 2″ from the waist and hip but only 1″ from the thigh. Way better, but still a touch loose at the waist. Took it in a smidge more at the waist tapering to nothing by the hip.

Where to put the waistband? In other words, should I put the waistband on so that the trousers sit on the body the way they do now, or should I hike them up a smidge?

1. As is, they look pretty good from the back, although there is evidence that they have become a little short through the back crotch extension/back inseam. The front, however, makes a little fold across the crotch, which seems to indicate excessive crotch length.

2. If I pull the trousers up a touch, they look good in the front, as this gets rid of the fold. But this exacerbates the short back-crotch-extension issue.

Down a little – nice(ish) in the back. Up a little – nice in the front. The crotch curve on the trousers is at the same height in front and back, so this suggests to me that I need to change the angle so it’s higher in front and lower in the back. (And throw in a slightly longer back crotch extension while I’m at it.)

However, I got a bit of help from a skilled seamstress-friend of mine. We made up a new muslin/toile from the altered fitting shell pattern. This muslin had the same crotch weirdness although she said it looked fine in the back. She opened up the inseam at the top, made the seam allowance on the front crotch a smidge (like 7mm) wider, sewing along the original stitching line along the back crotch. This got rid of that irritating little front fold. I’ll file that tidbit away for future reference.

Made a waistband (inside and outside, one piece each) using my draped belt pattern and tried interfacing one side with denim from salvaged jeans. This… didn’t work. I had to rip it all out because the denim was too thick, and thus the seam allowance inside the waistband was lumpy. Also, the turn of cloth didn’t work properly and nothing really fit nicely.

I had to eyeball the placement of the waistband in relation to the top edge of the pants as I knew the top edge was all wrong for me. This required a lot more work than I want to put in on a regular basis. Getting the flat pattern right has now come up in my list of priorities because I do not want to have to do it this way again.

Trundled along at a snail’s pace attempting to get everything as right as I could make it. Immediately after finishing the waistband, I discovered two irritating things: (1) the waistband at CF wasn’t matching up evenly on each side (despite the pains I took), and there’s a little more zipper exposed on one side than the other; and (2) because I didn’t do a zipper shield, the width of the back part is narrow, which leaves very little room to attach a closure. Seriously, I noticed these things within 2 min of finishing, and to correct them requires a lot more effort than I’m willing to put into them now.

Oops, you can't see the waistband under the T-shirt. Fit is closer and better.
More wrinkling evident from side - I assume because I took out width.
Wrinkling from back not much worse. Left crotch point as is.

Conclusion: wearable, if not the most appropriate fabric for early winter when I finished them; looks better on me than any store-bought pants; flaws are rather minor and as irritating as they are, I think I can live with them though I do hope not to repeat these particular errors. However, I do not love these pants and I probably won’t wear them much. Meh. But a learning experience, right?