Make & mend roundup
Halfway through the Fashion on the Ration year, only 22 of my original 66 coupons remain. I’ve had to buckle down to some serious make & mend to eke out my wardrobe. It’s included a lot of the usual jeans-to-cutoffs stuff that doesn’t merit a blog post, but here are some other highlights.
Most of the garments in my Please Try Harder drawer have needed little more than refreshing and reshaping to bring them back into play. This green cardigan started life as a soft and lovely but rather frumpy thrifted Brora sweater — round-necked, demure and with a bow under the chin. Sweet on somebody, but not on me.
I unpicked the bow, slit the sweater up the front and cardiganized it — stitched a length of ribbon to each cut edge, turned it to the wrong side and worked buttons and buttonholes through center front and ribbon. It’s a fast and easy conversion, but it does require some nerve to take a pair of shears to cashmere. I also reshaped the side seams to be more figure-hugging, as Brora sweaters tend to have a mumsy silhouette. This is a mod I perform on most of my sweaters now — all it takes is a simple straight stitch with a ballpoint needle, and you’ve instantly got a much more nipped-in and flattering shape.
Then there was the beach cover-up I bought from Zara in 2004 and the monstrously unflattering ankle-length linen pants I bought from the Gap in 2006. I lopped several inches off the hems of both, shortened and elasticized the shirt sleeves, reshaped the pant legs and accessorized. Total garments bought: 0. Totally new outfit: 1. Valid grounds for a little smugness.
Next on my list: my new skinny jeans demanded a voluminous top. The Japanese are particularly good at this — until I got my hands on my first Japanese pattern book recently, I had no idea “loose” didn’t have to mean “shapeless”. I decided to convert one of James’s old shirts to a Japanese-inspired smock top.
I embarked on this project freehand. After all, I’ve screwed up the classic man’s-shirt-to-woman’s-blouse project enough times with a pattern to feel I could hardly do worse without one. I removed the sleeves, unpicked the fronts and back from the yoke, cut the yoke narrower to fit my shoulders and then reattached the fronts and back, adding some red piping and dart tucks over the bust and at center back to fit them to the new smaller yoke.
My modifications had made the armscyes smaller, so I redrew the sleeve caps more or less freehand, without ease, and stitched them on. This is against all the rules, including mine, but seems to have worked okay; I’m not sure what the moral is here, unless it’s “Don’t sweat the sleeve caps.” Then I cut a new neckline and finished it with bias binding folded to the inside, put on some new buttons, hemmed everything up and voilà! It really was that easy, mostly thanks to the shirt’s check print. I highly recommend using stripes or checks — it’s like having graph paper to guide you all the way. Cutting, pressing, tucking and seaming can all be done with mathematical precision.
In our next installment: dresses from things that weren’t meant to be dresses!