In keeping with my desire to be more conscientious with my clothing, I shopped my closet for clothes that aren’t bad, but need a little refashioning to make me feel comfortable in them. I’ve had this gauzy tunic top hanging in my closet for a while. It felt nice and lightweight, but I just never felt like wearing it.
Originally it was a pale, pastel blue. I thought maybe a color change would help, since I’m not big on pastels. I added it to a black Rit dye batch a few weeks ago, turning it a nice, dark grey. When I put it on yesterday morning, though, it still wasn’t quite right.
The sleeves had weird cuffs sewn on that were an awkward length and oddly tight. I decided they had to go.
Rather than ripping out the seam, I simply cut away the cuffs as close to the seam as possible. I could have folded and hemmed the sleeves, but I planned to wear the tunic that day, so I wanted a quicker way of finishing them.
Instead of hemming, I used my serger to make a rolled overcast edge where I had removed the cuffs. Not only was this quick, it gave the sleeves a light, breezy feel that, in my opinion, fits better with the overall style of the shirt. With the new color and sleeves, I can see myself getting much more wear out of this tunic shirt.
Lately Christopher and I have been talking a lot about fashion. It started as a discussion about not being able to find comfortable clothes and how hard it is to find clothing that goes against the trends. Being crafty, we explored making our own clothing. The cost of fabric, supplies, time it takes to cut and sew all highlighted how impossible it is to produce clothing ethically at the low prices charged for much ready-to-wear clothing. That doesn’t even take into account the raw materials that are used to make the fabric and problems with content, pesticides, sustainability, etc.
At the same time, like many, our budget, doesn’t allow us to spend a ton on clothes. We try to make the most of our clothing budget guilt-free by shopping thrift stores and second hand shops. That way we aren’t adding to the problem by purchasing new. Most thrift shops are charity-based, so our purchases help others. We often find better quality items than what we would otherwise be able to afford this way, too.
With thrift shopping, you’re not as limited by trends. If you’re looking for something in particular, unless it’s a common item, you’re still likely to come up empty handed. That has been our problem when it comes to comfortable men’s and boy’s pants. Both Finn and Christopher would prefer something a little roomier, like karate gi pants. Unfortunately, nothing like that has been in fashion since M.C. Hammer. That means it’s time to put my sewing machines to use.
Making a pattern from shorts
This summer, I started by trying to copy a pair of the cotton knit gym shorts they practically lived in, adding a gusset for comfort and mobility. I used to buy bulk bags of t-shirts from Thrift Town before they closed, so instead of using new fabric, I used some XL t-shirts I had on hand. That way, if things went horribly wrong I wouldn’t feel as bad.
I have zero experience with pattern making, so this was a learning experience. Here’s a brief overview of how I did it.
I laid the shorts inside out and folded in half, front to the inside, smoothing them as flat as possible. Then I traced them, adding about an inch all around. The inch is for seam allowance and to account for the fact that it’s impossible to get finished shorts to lay flat. I always err on the side of too big, because that is much easier to fix.
At the waistband, I measured the waistband and extended the pattern by that amount plus seam allowance above the waistband. This allows it to be folded down for elastic and a drawstring casing. At the hem, I extended the lines two times the width of the hem to allow enough fabric to fold and hem. On the pattern, I drew lines straight across to show where the finished hem and waistband hit on the original shorts for reference.
Then I folded them in half , backs to the inside and repeated the above steps since the back is cut differently than the front.
Drafting the gusset
For the gusset, I drew kind of a triangle with the top point cut off. To do this evenly, I folded a piece of paper in half, drew a half inch line perpendicular to the fold, moved over about four inches and drew another perpendicular line measuring one and a half inches. Then I drew a straight line connecting the tops of the lines. I cut along the lines and opened it up to get my gusset pattern. Sewing the gusset in with the wider part at the crotch seam and using a half inch seam allowance results the gusset tapering down to a point.
Shorts to pants
Shorts work for summer, but I needed to come up with a pants pattern for fall and winter. Chris suggested just making the shorts pattern longer, so I did by measuring the waist to floor measurement and extending my pattern the needed amount, including seam allowances.
I did this by taping the bottom of the pattern to a big piece of paper, sketching out the needed length and side seams and cutting it out.
My pattern isn’t perfect. I think I’ve tweaked it each time I’ve used it. Since the pants are made to be loose and flowy it hides the imperfections.
These are my first attempt. I made them with a linen blend, elastic and drawstring combo waistband and no pockets. I added side-seam pockets later.
My goal is to find or draft a few more basic, customizable patterns for pants and shirts that can be made in linen or a similar material. Then I can buy a bulk amount of undyed fabric and dye it as needed.
I prefer my tops to be a little loose, because it makes chasing a toddler much easier. Breezy tops also make hot, humid weather a little more bearable. I tend to avoid actual blouses because they either fit too snuggly for my liking or look like a giant tent.
To fix that, I take a too big blouse and add a little elastic across the back to make it look trimmer without sacrificing comfort. I can’t take credit for this idea. I found it years ago online, but have since lost the link to that tutorial. If that was you, I would love to link to your original, much better tutorial.
Giant, but so comfy tent. *A note on the door. That is my craft room door. Yes, it’s supposed to look like that. We call it the “Ya-Ya Sisterhood” door. The door frame however… Let’s just say my house is one big diy project that is slooooooowly progressing.
Cut a piece of elastic to the size you want your shirt to come in. I played around by stretching the elastic and pinning it to my shirt. I ended up with about 4 inches. Since this shirt has the two vertical seams on the back, I made the elastic attach at each seam.
For the most flattering location vertically, find where your natural waist is and attach the elastic along that line. I found that spot by putting the shirt on, eyeballing it and marking it with a pin. I also ended up with my elastic a tad too high, so you might want to go with a more accurate method, such as actually using a tape measure.
Sew a straight line at each end to tack the elastic where you want it, then zig-zag along the elastic while keeping it evenly stretched. I like using a three step zig-zag on elastic, but a regular zig-zag will work, too.
Finished result on Athena, my almost-twin dress form. Why yes, I do own an iron, why do you ask?
Clear as mud? If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll try to clear things up for you.
I should really start taking more pictures before I start a project. During would be good, too, but at least a before and after shot. I also need to find my tripod and/or maybe just wait until someone other than Beckett is home to take pictures.
Anyway, here’s the final product:
I’m not sure what my crazy child was doing at the time, but it must have been cute.
It’s pretty straightforward: Two similarly sized/shaped/weighted t-shirts cut across the middle and the bottom of one sewn into the middle of the other. The shirts were pretty big to begin with, so the end result looked like a sack. I serged the sides in about an inch per side with the end result being a slightly less big sack. Not something I see myself wearing out much, but for around the house or running Finn to and from school (hence the super-flattering sneakers) it will get some use. More than the original boxy, awkward t-shirts anyway.
This morning I threw on a pair of black Danskin boot cut yoga pants for the walk to school. They were some of the first new pants I bought after Beckett was born. They fit a little big now, except for the length. They were now cropped in a less fashionable, more “look at my ankle” sort of way.
After seeing some pants to leggings tutorials, I decided that was the way to go. With fall arriving any day now (please!), leggings will get more use for under skirts and with tall boots.
I didn’t take any before pictures. This is the inspiration tutorial. Instead of only trimming from the inseam, it looked better if I took some from along the outside, too. To keep it even, I did one leg, tried them on to make sure it fit, then folded them in half and used the finished leg as a pattern for the other leg. I had planned to add a cuff using the fold over waistband. It was black on one side and grey with multicolored stripes on the other. I thought it would be cute and add length. I tried it on one side, and decided I didn’t like the way it looked. With the tighter fit, they actually stay down at my ankles anyway.
The left leg is rolled up to show where the yoga pants were hitting me. Not a flattering look with a boot cut.
One thing that’s really nice about making the leggings this way is that the yoga pant’s fabric was heaver than most leggings, so they offer more coverage as long as they don’t get stretched too tight. Definitely cut a little bigger than you think. You can always take more off easier than fixing something that is too small.
Side note about the shirt I’m wearing: I really want to do something to make it less boxy, but I can’t. I’m afraid I might make it un-wearable. Normally that wouldn’t matter too much with a free t-shirt. This one is special, though. Right after Beckett was born, Finn and my mom went to the grocery store to get a few things we needed at home. Someone offered Finn a free t-shirt. He politely turned it down, but then said that maybe his mom would want one, so they gave him one for me. For a while afterward, any time I wore this shirt, his face would light up and he’d say “You’re wearing the shirt I got you!” So, yeah, I will probably wear this shirt as-is until it starts falling apart. Then I’ll turn it into a pillow or something to keep forever.
Also, Beckett just woke up from his nap, hence the no-pants look.
I did learn just how sharp my fabric scissors are while working on this project. I was snipping some threads at the end and managed to catch my finger. I can totally vouch for their razor-sharpness.
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