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A (partial) wardrobe overhaul

newly altered clothingBack in April, I learned about Me-Made May 2014. I loved the concept but did not sign up. I knew that, with everything already on my calendar at the time, I couldn’t hope to finish any new craft challenge that month, no matter how humble a goal I set.

But I couldn’t shake the notion. I DID have plenty in my wardrobe that I didn’t wear. Most of those back-of-the-closet items were store-bought rather than handmade, but regardless, all were things I liked too much to give away even though they just didn’t work for me.

I tried to ignore everyone’s May goals while I kept reading all my favorite blogs. And among them I was regularly seeing new refashion projects on Carissa Knits or references to the Me-Made May challenge on Jennifer Lauren Vintage and thinking, wow! Why can’t I do/don’t I do/didn’t I think of THAT?!

So I gave in. But instead of “me-made,” I aimed for me-altered. And instead of “May,” I took a less ambitious beginning in May.

Here’s the result of my cheater’s take: I’ve returned three pairs of pants, five t-shirts, and two casual-but-nice tops to actual wearing rotation.

Now, don’t expect to be seriously wowwed. I don’t do high fashion, and most of the alterations are basic, especially if you have real sewing experience under your belt. But I’m satisfied knowing these favorite clothes are usable again, not just wasting my drawer space.

First up: Two pairs of casual jersey knit pants.

altered pantsThey were still soooo comfortable, and the perfect weight for our mild spring and fall weather, and they had these great deep pockets I loved. But they were looking S-A-D. The fabric had stretched in width from my last few years’ worth of yo-yo weight. But in the other direction, the fabric had shrunk, leaving the legs a good three inches too short.

The fix was so easy, I don’t know why I didn’t do it long ago. I whacked another five inches off the legs and rehemmed. Capris! To fix the width, I laid the pants out flat and pinned, then stitched about an inch deeper all the way around the U, up one inseam, around, and back down the other. I took an inch deeper in from the seam up the rise, too, then finally trimmed off all the excess.

They’re still casual pants at best, especially given the fading they’ve done since they were new. But now that they’re properly fitted (I kept the weight off this time, yay and knock wood), I don’t feel frumpy when I put them on now.

Next: My old favorite jeans still felt good, but they were no longer fit for public wear given the state of their knees. Cutoffs–what could be simpler?

I didn’t want the shorts to fray so much that they got shorter, though, so instead of hemming, I ran a line of straight stitching about a quarter inch above the cut.

renewed shortsA few washes later, they look artfully frayed without threatening to get me arrested.

I’m convinced I’ll get years more wear from this denim now. (Bonus: I’ve already put part of those cut-off legs to use, too. Remember this project?)

Next, a stack of t-shirts that just didn’t fit. Who bothers to alter t-shirts, right? But these included one special-ordered for a family event, two that were gifts from my family, and two that are colors I absolutely love and wouldn’t want to replace.

Have you noticed how cheap some manufacturers have gotten with fitting? Women’s shirts are built exactly the same as men’s: a long box, with two smaller boxes tacked on for sleeves. No shaping whatsoever. They needed help.

Only trouble is, I don’t have a clue how to measure for a more appropriate fit. It finally dawned on me that I didn’t have to. I have one t-shirt that fits exactly like I think a t-shirt should, so I used it as a pattern over the boxy ones.

resized t-shirts

Pin, re-seam, cut, repeat.

I don’t have a serger, so to mimic serging on the side seams, I put in a straight seam, then went back and sewed a zigzag right next to it before trimming the excess.

I also learned (finally) a little trick that would have let me dare to sew jersey knit long ago if I’d known it: Sew first, then cut. That way, you don’t have to deal with any of that pesky curling. It made shortening these man-length shirts a cinch. I think I did an especially nice job faking the double-stitching along the lower hems, too!

t-shirt hems

So that took care of four of the five shirts. The last needed additional help. The neck was way, way too tight.

I was hesitant, but I went ahead and took my seam ripper to the neck binding. To my surprise, the tiny fold of fabric it had been sewn to felt like exactly the right size. It was only the binding that was too small. Also to my surprise, the fold stayed perfectly in position. All I had to do to finish was run a narrow zigzag over it.

new neck on top

Finally, I had two pretty pointelle knit tops that, unfortunately, suffered from the same mannish shaping as all those t-shirts did. I gave them the same hem and side-seam treatment, again using the well-fitted T as a guide.

With their button detail and slightly sweetheart necklines, though, I thought these tops needed just one more shaping touch.

pretty knit top

I’d never marked darts without the help of a pattern before, so this was scary. And I didn’t get them right on either shirt the first time. But in the end–whew! I can now say that I’ve tackled a bust dart and come out on top. (pun intended)

I’m not quite finished with the wardrobe overhaul yet. Since my darts were successful in those knit tops, I’d like to try to add a couple to my April-finished spring dress to give it a better fit, too, and maybe do the same on the top of a two-piece dress I made ten years ago but haven’t worn since. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to let the sewing machine take over my dining room table again just yet, though. More on those alterations some other time.

Please tell me I’m not nuts for putting this much effort into saving some old clothes. What lengths have YOU gone to refit/refashion/repurpose/otherwise save your favorite clothing?

Categories: Hardworking Handmade Item

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A wife and mom, a worker bee, a churchwoman, a reader, and a crafter. What more is there to know? :)

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