Make do and mend challenge: Wardrobe week

I thoroughly enjoyed the first task of this month’s make do and mend challenge last week. Spending a week not going food shopping and cooking up new meals with items from my kitchen cupboards was a real eye opener. By the end of the task supplies of some basics, such as milk and onions, were getting  low but generally there were still plenty of items in the cupboards and freezer to get through and it made our menu a lot more inventive.

But now I’m onto a new week and a fresh task. This week I’m getting to grips with my wardrobe and trying to fashion some funky new items from old, tired or just plain boring things that I haven’t worn for ages. It all sounds simple enough on paper, but I’m much more nervous about this task than last week’s. I’d hardly say I’m Jamie Oliver but I can cook and follow a recipe. On the other hand, my needlework and textile skills are limited. I can sew in a straight(ish) line and stitch a button onto a shirt but that’s about it. I have friends I envy who regularly hack at shop bought T-shirts to produce a trendy new look or who make or dye their own skirts and outfits, but I’ve never dared to.

The first and only time I attempted a Gok-style makeover of a dress I’d bought from Peacocks – it had a big integral belt in the middle with little belt loops and I tried to remove the loops – I ended up with a big hole in the side of it and had to sew the belt loops back on to hide the hole before I wore it to a friend’s birthday party. Oops. Last year I knitted a baby blanket for another friend and tried to embroider a pattern on the front with wool, but despite my efforts it was pretty appalling stuff. I’d spent so long on it that I still presented it to my friend, shamefaced, and she was very kind about it but I haven’t attempted anything similar since.

But (despite my neighbour laughing hysterically at me the other day at the thought of me doing this challenge) as “can’t lives on won’t street”, I have put my fears aside and spent yesterday rummaging through my wardrobe. For my first project I have found a pair of jeans I bought from New Look some time ago for £10 but rarely wear as they’re a bit dull. It occurred to me that I could jazz them up a bit by sewing on some beads, so I ferreted out my jewellery making box and I’m in the middle of sewing some on. It’s hard work but a surprisingly absorbing task.

I also found a useful book in the library called Strands, which is all about how to make your own clothes and accessories using unusual materials or cut offs and this useful website Make it and mend it. It might very well prove to be far too ambitious, but I thought I might have a go at trying to make a top or dress from…er…an old duvet cover I found in the airing cupboard and don’t use. There is a (supposedly) simple dress pattern in the book and I got some black dye from the supermarket that you can use in the washing machine to dye the material with. But I’m a bit nervous about using it and the fact I don’t have a sewing machine. I’ll let you know later on in the week how I get on…

Do you make your own clothes or refashion old items from your wardrobe? Got any good tips or suggestions for easy & cheap makeovers? Leave a message and let me know.

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6 Responses to Make do and mend challenge: Wardrobe week

  1. Bill says:

    Black can be an extremely tricky colour. It must always be washed in cold water, or the dye will run brown/red into everything else. It could be washed seperately, but for a clumsy oaf such as myself still yet a pain.I spent 10 years in East Germany, in the so-called Zone, from \’78 – \’88. The local Ladies always recycled gents shirts, simply by turning the collar, & when the gents shirts were long since past all redemption, they became gents underwear. For most gents, it was the only hope of underwear, as it was never stocked in the state shops. I could purchase duty-free Ladies undies, including genuine black silk with seams, in large wholesale quantities on the M-way services, by means of a "wessie" passport. Oft 24 identicalitems in a box. Sadly, the natives could not afford to purchase even at this price. I only indulged as a means of sorting parking & speeding tickets. The equally bent officers would simply pass the product to their spouse/girlfriend, who then tookit to the local dhoby shop on a dark & foggy night, in order to exchange it for a more suitable size/colour etc. It was simply a case of us all living within our means.

  2. Unknown says:

    T-Shirts are the best to start with as you can chop them up and they don\’t fray. There are some great tutorials on line showing you how to refashion Tshirts by adding ruffles or rosettes. YoYos are also really, really easy to make – I turn scraps of recycled fabric into yoyo brooches and I\’ve just made some upcycled hair bands. Easy peasy. http://niftythriftyloveliness.blogspot.com

  3. Gabrielle says:

    Sounds like you\’re doing brilliantly and it\’s only Tuesday! I haven\’t dyed anything before but I am going to see if I can revive a tired-looking cord blazer by dying it its original colour. Let me know how you get on with your dying.I had a go at embroidering the other night and by a sort of accident I ended up appliqueing a butterfly shape cut from fabric onto an old cardigan! If I can do that without really setting out to, you can absolutely do anything that you put your mind to! I\’ll be adding a post about it to my blog tonight if you fancy a read http://www.thegreengal.co.uk

  4. Christine says:

    You used to be able to buy iron on transfers for things like jeans and t-shirts at no great cost to liven up or change clothes. If you can sew a button on a shirt, you can find some pretty buttons to liven up the cuffs and fronts of your dressy shirts to make them look new and different. Or even to alter one of those cardigans you have. Because I learned to embroider young, I can always design a quick flower with a couple of skeins of embroidery thread to add to the back pocket of a pair of jeans and then add a couple of sequins for a bit of sparkle. When the kids were teens they used to get hold of stencil patterns from sewing kits and experiment on old worn out t-shirts using indelible markers to get the swing of designs and then go for it on ones that they were actually going to wear. Bit trendy but some of the results were fun.What about applying your jewelry making skills to belts to liven up jeans? It\’s not the jeans but the belts around here that make the fashion statement.

  5. piper says:

    Hey – thanks for all the great tips. The jeans are looking a lot better already.

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