Before going on a recent holiday, I sat down and had a proper look at my zebra shorts. These might actually be my favourite garment that I have made. Buying shorts ready-to-wear is a complete nightmare. It’s almost impossible to get anything in between booty shorts and knee-length. I have a couple of pairs of short shorts and I really don’t feel comfortable in them. My zebra shorts are perfect for me; short but with absolutely no risk of my arse being unexpectedly exposed.
Because I love these shorts so much, I have worn them loads over the past eighteen months. I wear my clothes HARD and they have stood up remarkably well.
Since I made them from a fabric that is not really fit for purpose, they are starting to show signs of wear. The fabric is fading, which doesn’t really bother me. But something weird was going on with the turned-up hems. Since I didn’t really have time to repair the shorts before I left, I just re-pressed the hems as best I could and made a note to work on them upon my return.
The first thing I did was take out the little stitches tacking down the turn-ups and then put them in the wash. I pressed the shorts and you can really see how the fabric has worn in different areas.
I added some fusible interfacing to try and reinforce the turn-ups. I think the cotton wasn’t really strong enough to hold them so hopefully they will stay looking tidy for a bit longer now.
I simply cut 2″ strips (enough to cover the whole turn-up and then some) and ironed on. I had a few weights of iron-on interfacing in my stash and went for the heaviest woven one.
It probably would have been better to unpick the side seams before adding the interfacing but I was constrained by time for this mend.
Although I did it by hand before, I made the hem on my machine this time. Since the shorts have turn-ups, it will be hidden anyway. I also have a funny feeling that the tiny hand stitches were causing more wear in this high-stress area of the shorts, where the hem had come loose on the backs of both legs. My mum taught me that when making an invisible hem you should try to catch only one thread of the fabric with each stitch. This looks great but can create pulls in the fabric over time.
I have come to realise that I loathe a bar as a trouser closure. I think people use it because it is considered neater than a button. Because I have narrow hips, I need my waistband to be tight to prevent my trousers from falling down, which means it is easy for the bar to come out or make a hole in the facing fabric. On my Cigarette Pants that are actually pants and not shorts, I have already had to patch the waistband and add a buttonhole because the bar destroyed the delicate facing fabric.
An easy repair was replacing the bar with a button. If I had had time, I would have gone out and bought a shiny new button but I just used one I already had in the house.
All in all, these repairs took around 2-3 hours.
Because of the inappropriate fabric choice, I am not sure how long of a lifespan these shorts will have. These repairs should at least keep them in rotation for another summer. I find myself keeping an eye out for some snazzy denim for a second iteration. I do have some denim in my stash left over from my denim day dress. I know I should really use this up rather than buying new fabric. I have plenty of patches I could use to jazz the shorts up. Or- heaven forfend- I could have something plain in my wardrobe.
I hope people don’t find these mend posts boring. I am partly writing them because I want to view mending as a creative process in the same way as making. I’m still trying to create a smallish wardrobe of thoughtfully made items rather than ending up with the handmade equivalent of fast fashion. And perhaps someone else has some tatty shorts out there and might get some ideas on how to spruce them up.
The latest step in my quest to reduce my reliance on single-use plastics has been to make some cloth bags to carry with me. I mainly intend to take them when I shop at the Source, but I also think they will be very useful just to keep in my various bags for incidental purchases. I always try to keep a clean empty container with me, but I still get caught out quite often.
I used this tutorial as a jumping-off point. I accidentally got given an extra length of the cotton I bought to make a summer blouse, meaning that I had a little over half a metre left over. Since I have learnt to my cost that white is a terrible colour for facings, I decided to put it to use here.
I cut the fabric to various sizes. My only criteria were to have the print the correct way up, have bags that seemed of a sensible size (given that I don’t use them yet, so I don’t really have a sense of which sizes will be most useful) and waste as little fabric as possible.
I experimented a little with the construction because I wanted to use French seams on the inside of the bags. I found a way but I imagine there’s a better method so I won’t bother posting pics of how I did it. This is how the inside ended up.
Love me a French seam.
You can see that the top right corner looks a bit weird due to the way I
botched constructed the drawstring opening. They lie flat when right-sides out so I’m not bothered by that.
A fun aspect of this project was that I felt very free to make mistakes. On the second bag I sewed the seams on the top incorrectly, so that the channel for the drawstring was on the right side rather than the wrong side. I considered unpicking the overcast stitches before realising that it really didn’t matter which side the channel is on.
I used shoelaces as the closures. I took part in a colour run nearly four years ago and took a load of the laces they were giving out. I’m quite relieved to have finally found a use for them!
I have a rough colour-coded system to differentiate the sizes.
Blue = big
Pink = petite
Y = yeah, I couldn’t think of one for that colour
I am now aware of just how white this fabric is. I am planning to make a second set of produce bags so that one can go in the white wash and the other in the coloured wash. Being in your thirties is so boring and domestic at times.
I finished my latest summer top in short order after my last post, which meant that I met my target to wear it in Florence.
Fortunately the tight armholes are not too much of a problem.
However, I definitely need a full bust adjustment and possibly a back adjustment too. I see people talking about swayback adjustment quite a bit so maybe that?
For a top made in the wrong type of fabric, I’m fairly satisfied with it. I find the mandarin collar a little constricting around my throat, but I can’t really see myself wearing this buttoned all the way up so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
This picture was taken on the way to my first commentary spot at the 2018 quidditch world cup. Calling and analysing the matches was a lot of fun, and it was nice to realise how much my understanding of the game has increased in the past two years.
Pattern: Threadcount 1617 view B size 10
Fabric: 1.5m cotton lawn from Sew Over It
Notions: Around £8
Pattern: £3.22 (second use)
Total cost: Around £27.50
Since we’re over halfway though the year, I thought I would review where I am with my sewing for the year. I have completed five items so far.
It’s interesting for me to note that, just like last year, my plans have changed hugely in the six short months since I made them. Here’s what I thought I might make:
- Cloud Lark
- Stripy Lark
- Ultimate shirt in Liberty fabric
- Third day dress in viscose
- Wearable toile- copy of the perfect pencil skirt I have
- Threadcount 1617– I think I will start out with a toile using a viscose remnant I have.
- I also have my eye on some beautiful viscose with a monstera (my favourite leaf) print for a second version. I won a £20 voucher from Sew Over It’s #SOIshowoff competition, which would buy 1.5m
- Teal anorak
- Dotty Linden
Now I’m thinking that I’m more likely to end up with this:
Cloud Lark Stripy Lark Nautical Linden Floral Threadcount 1617 Dotty Linden
- Wink blouse
- Clouds and rockets blouse
- Navy corduroy trousers
- Teal anorak
I’ve written a little about this before, but I would still like to get better at making pre-planned projects. Lots of the items on the first list are things that I would like to make and would be useful but somehow they don’t grab me. The shirt in particular has been on there for 18 months and remains no closer to being cut out. In contrast, my wink blouse went from twinkle in the eye to wearable item in five days. At the same time as wanting to plan, I don’t want to (and perhaps can’t) put reins on my creativity. I’m realising that sudden inspiration and feverish spurts of making are part of my process.
I’ve been thinking in therapy about how I find it difficult to know what I want in life. Often I see myself as a plastic bag blowing around in the breeze, Making is one of the few spaces I have where I know precisely what I want and then make time to work tirelessly until I have it.
When I was planning going support some friends at the Quidditch World Cup in Florence, I thought it would be fun to make some supporters’ stash. One of our friends is famous for sharking (flirting/trying to get people into the sport) so I wanted a shark hat to wear in the crowd. I was going to crochet one until someone pointed out how hot that would be in the Italian summer.
Lots of brands sell shark baseball hats for babies, but finding something similar for adults was a struggle.
I managed to find this hat on eBay. I showed a selfie to a fellow supporter, who asked if I had made it. I do have a history of customising baseball caps. From looking at the hat, I thought that I could make something equally good or better, so I decided that I would make another one for her as a surprise. Within twenty-four hours, I had purchased the materials.
You will need
- Plain baseball cap
- Fabric paint in black and white
- Felt/fabric that matches the baseball cap
- A small amount of stuffing- you can use fabric scraps for this if you don’t want to buy
- I also used some scrap red corduroy for the heart eyes
Choose your design
Because I’ll be wearing this hat to support a cute and loving shark, I thought it would be fun to give her heart eyes. I played around sketching some initial designs.
Decide how you want to apply your design
I bought fabric paint in black, white and red, but then I thought it might be fun to add some mixed media elements. In particular, to either applique or use buttons for the heart eyes. Another advantage of appliqueing the eyes was that they covered the vents in the hat.
Because I knew that corduroy frays, I tested out ways of finishing the edges. I decided to slap on a liberal coat of fray check and then use blanket stitch to apply the patches.
I very roughly sketched some lines on the hat with a pencil. I decided to eyeball most of the painting and I think that was the right decision- the texture of the hat affected my painting and it was easier to adjust on the fly.
I did the teeth first, building up layers of white paint until it was opaque.
I did the black next. I had to use a fine brush for all the parts near the teeth.
Again I did a second coat of black to make sure the paint was even.
Finally, I added the grey section. Once it dried, it looked a bit dark so I added a second coat of grey with more white in it.
Don’t forget to iron your design if you want it to be weather proof. Use a pressing cloth to protect your iron.
Next, I glued on my corduroy heart eyes with fabric adhesive. I then blanket-stitched around. I couldn’t find my embroidery thread so I just used ordinary sewing cotton.
For the fin, I cut out a rough fin shape on the fold.
I then stitched it right sides together and added some stuffing.
Finally, I hand stitched it onto the top of the hat. I tucked the raw edges of the fin under, pressed and then stitched along the pressed line. I was in a rush so I didn’t photograph this step.
And you’re done!
Here you can see the difference between using a snapback (with a flat brim) and a baseball cap (curved brim). For me, it’s a matter of preference.
Another upcoming holiday, another garment made up in the preceding week. I spent around 15 straight hours working on my second version of the Threadcount 1617 blouse in this cute cotton print.
I was a victim of the Sew Over It new fabrics newsletter once again! I really must unsubscribe. I actually fell in love with a different fabric in the newsletter and make the hour-long pilgrimage to the new Islington store. Once there, I realised that the fabric wasn’t quite perfect, but I felt that this one was.
Even though I was very proud of myself for managing to make my first version of this top (on a technical level), the finished garment has issues. It feels a little too big in the shoulders and the forward shoulder seams have a very annoying habit of slipping back. But I don’t have another pattern for a sleeveless blouse so I forged ahead. Pattern recommendations will be very gratefully received.
I made few changes to the pattern as written. I took a lot of time over attempting to pattern match. I used the burrito method for the first time and it worked really well.
I decided to size down for the present project, which in hindsight was an error.
- Armholes are a little tight
- If I make this pattern again, I must use an FBA
- Mashed up hemline shortened by 10cm
This project is a helpful reminder about the dangers of cotton. I’ve been very good about avoiding cotton but got sucked in by a lovely print. While I like the print, this fabric really is not ideal for this project because it lacks drape. I’m glad to have received this reminder because I very nearly purchased a dress-quantity of another cotton and I’m glad that I held off. I am pretty fussy about drape.
Update: I remain a sucker. Went in to Liberty to choose buttons for this top and accidentally bought 1.5m of cotton lawn in the sale.
Since it’s so hot in London, I’ve realised that my wardrobe has a complete dearth of summer tops. Liberty tana lawn is so gorgeous against the skin and has a little drape because it’s so fine. I’m still not totally sold on TC1617 so I’m going to try making a sleeveless version of the Sew Over It ultimate shirt. Wish me luck!
Pattern: Threadcount 1617 view B size 10
Fabric: 1.5m cotton lawn from Sew Over It
Notions: Around £8
Pattern: £3.22 (second use)
Me-made May has come to an end. I managed to wear something hand sewn every day with no cheating (of which I may or may not have been guilty last year).
I found taking the pictures more of a challenge this year. I’ve been trying to make my Instagram posts more colourful since seeing this infographic of the most used colours in my grid. In non-May months, I don’t take a picture every time I wear something I’ve made myself. This month, feeling under pressure to find different colourful backgrounds suitable for a photo was really difficult.
Another thing I noticed was that my posts got a lot less engagement than they did last year. I try not to worry too much about things like that, especially because I’m not a business, but I think it’s noteworthy. I wonder if it’s due to the changes in the Instagram algorithm since there has been little change to my content.
Some takeaways from the month:
- Neither of my Bettine dresses (raindrop, striped) featured. Even though this was one of the patterns than inspired me to start sewing, elasticated waists are just not for me.
- I would like to focus a little bit more on wardrobe planning rather than only making items spontaneously. However, this is a real challenge for me. What I enjoy is being inspired and then feeling highly motivated by a project. I find it harder to make the time for more planned out projects.
- I still don’t make enough plain things or dresses
I’m glad that I looked back on my last me-made May roundup (linked above). I felt like I hadn’t learnt much last May, but actually I’ve acted on many of the outcomes. I’ve started making my second pair of Cigarette Pants, I’ve started repurposing unloved sweaters from early in my knitting career and I’m going to donate some old makes as part of my house move.
I’ve never read anything by Marie Kondo (though perhaps I should, given how much stuff I have!) but I did listen to a podcast that talked about her philosophy that you should only keep items that bring you joy. I tried to take this approach when assessing whether to keep or donate my handmades.
I considered repurposing the raw materials from these items, but in the end I know I would rather spend my limited making time creating something new. Where garments are in good nick, I hope that they will bring happiness to new owners.