Make do and mend challenge: Wardrobe malfunction

I’m hot, I’m bothered and I have a newfound respect for professional dressmakers. Not that I am in any way in danger of joining their ranks any time soon…believe me…

As you know, I’ve been busy over the past couple of days in this hot weather with my latest make do and mend challenge – trying to refresh some items from my wardrobe using sewing and beading techniques. To be honest, the results have been pretty mixed so far. The jeans I decided to sew some beads onto to make them look a bit more glamorous are actually taking shape and looking pretty good, I think. Of course, sewing on the beads has been a painstakingly slow process and I’ve not got anything like as far along in the project as I’d hoped. It’s going to take much more time to finish but I’m pleased with how they look so far. I tried to go for an asymmetrical/scattergun type of design – er… perhaps calling it a ‘design’ is going a bit far – but even DJ said yesterday that he thought the jeans looked pretty good. Praise indeed from Caesar!

But then yesterday I decided to jump in at the deep end and get stuck into something much more ambitious – making that dress from the old blue duvet cover I mentioned in my previous post and dyeing it black. A blogger and crafty ‘bon viveur on a budget’  Pennygolightly I chatted with via Twitter this week told me not to worry about using the dye in the washing machine – she reckons it’s perfectly safe but advised me to make sure I washed the material properly before dyeing it, so I did so. But then something else on the black dye packet alarmed me: ‘after dyeing, dry the material away from the sunlight’. Away from sunlight, eh? How am I supposed to achieve that in this weather? Mmm. I decided it might be easier to cut up the material first, make the dress and then dye it, thinking it would be simpler to dry a dress indoors somewhere (I’m praying that the black dye won’t drip everywhere…we have white walls and cream carpets upstairs…) than an entire duvet cover.

After that, I hit another snag. While the book I’d got from the library is great, the pattern for the dress I’d planned to use needs to be photocopied to 140 per cent and then is still only for a size 8. I don’t think I’ve ever been a size 8. In the end, I decided to take another dress from my wardrobe and use it to make a pattern from newspaper sellotaped together as I didn’t have any paper big enough (I’m sure any dressmaker worth her salt will be appalled..). I then cut the duvet material around it with what turned out to be blunt scissors. It didn’t look pretty. I got very hot and grumpy in our lounge doing this and when DJ sauntered in and pointed out that he thought the sleeves were too small, let’s just say he got a ‘warmer’ reception than he’d expected.

Now I’m busy sewing it all together – it’s going to take some time as I don’t have the luxury of a sewing machine – and praying that it will actually look vaguely like an item of clothing. I’m not holding out much hope. I tried it on last night still pinned together and it’s too short and er…looks like a dress made from a duvet! I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew this time…

Do you think it’s cheaper to make your own clothes or do you think it’s more expensive and too much hassle? Leave a message and let me know your thoughts.

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6 Responses to Make do and mend challenge: Wardrobe malfunction

  1. Emily says:

    I\’ve made patterns before using newspaper – a bit messy but works ok. Greaseproof paper is a better bet though as it\’s more transparent and comes on rolls which is handy. A good way to make a pattern is to use a dress (or skirt or whatever you like – I\’ve done this method for covering sofa cushions too) and unpick all the seams – you can then use the pieces as your pattern on your new material. You can also reuse any buttons and zips from the old item you\’ve unpicked.

  2. Christine says:

    You\’re learning experience Piper – something that they don\’t teach in books, on-line or often in sewing classes where there\’s a teacher to sort out your mistakes. If you can make jewellry you must have some sort of skills with your hands so why not look for a course on basic sewing skills where there is someone who can guide you along the right paths? One where you can learn simple techniques before you jump in and learn to do the hard things? That would be a confidence booster to set you off on making clothes. Skill of hand with making things takes many years of teaching, learning, practice and experience before you are any use at all. And the one thing that you can\’t teach anyone is experience. But the best advice of all is to buy a few classic clothes that don\’t date so that you can just go into somewhere like Accessorize and pick up the sparkly bits and scarfs that are the latest fashionable colour to make you look smart and up to date. There\’s nothing wrong with plain, good style that can be sparkled up with accessories. It it\’s hiding at the back of the wardrobe unloved, perhaps you shouldn\’t have bought it in the first place?

  3. piper says:

    Thanks Emily. It\’s good to know I wasn\’t entirely barking up the wrong tree with the newspaper! I think I need to invest in some sharper scissors. Good idea about unpicking clothes and using them as a pattern. Hadn\’t thought of that. A basic sewing course is a good plan too.

  4. Kerri says:

    You have my greatest respect Piper with your wardrobe challenge. Over the years I have tried to alter/renew a few things in my wardrobe and the results have been anything but frugal since most items have turned out unwearable plus I have the added cost of forking out on fabic dyes etc (yes, I found out the hard way that denim doesn\’t dye well). I can barely stitch a button though my mum thinks (quote) that I can sew beautifully. My problem is that a) I don\’t always have the patience, b) I am a virgo so by nature like things \’just so\’. However, fabric and thread don\’t seem to know this so when they aren\’t prefect I tend to get disheartened. However, I am thinking of getting some cheap fabric (or free from freecycle) and lace and drying out some lavendar from my mum\’s garden to make little room and draw scented sachets. Might even see if I can find a sewing machine on freecycle too – you might do well to have a look on there for one, even if you stop using it, you can always re-post my mum used to make her own clothes (and was rather good at it) and used newpaper for patterns too 🙂

  5. Penny says:

    Very brave of you to have a go! I used to make a lot of clothes, but haven\’t lately (children) The best advice I can give is – use a paper pattern! If you haven\’t done it before, it will save you lots of time trying to figure out what to sew where, and the results will be better. They are quite expensive, but you can reuse them if you\’re careful, and there\’s much less chance of ruining the material. Start with a simple skirt – you might surprise yourself!

  6. Vix says:

    Blimey! I haven\’t attempted clothes yet even WITH a sewing machine (newly aquired with a fair amount of Eye Rolling from the Beloved!). I am absolutely loving Morsbags though if you fancy putting your dress to another use ;). Clothes are next on my "learn to sew" list… although I will be starting small, literally… with the children and a few dress up outfits so if I balls them up it doesn\’t matter!

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