For many of us going into lockdown meant we suddenly found ourselves with lots of free time. For the first month I carried on felting and stitching, working on a few projects I had planned for Summer exhibitions. By the time we got to the end of April reality had hit home and it was looking less and less likely that those exhibitions would be happening before the Autumn, if at all this year! For ages I’ve been wanting to take up dressmaking and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d now got the time for a new hobby.
I’d only tried this once before when I made my “duvet dress”, a tunic made from an old Ikea duvet cover. It was a very simple pattern, bought because I liked the style but also because it said “Yes, It’s easy” on the front of the packet! I was pleased with the result but never got around to doing any more.
What I really wanted to do this time around was to make a pattern taking inspiration from a Masai dress I particularly liked that was well worn, and accidentally splashed with bleach. I took it apart, laid each section onto lining paper and traced around, adding half an inch all round for seams. I found some 3/4″ elastic for the sides of the hem but didn’t know how to create the elasticated band across the back of the dress. In the end I figured, as it was such a loose fit, an elasticated back wasn’t really necessary. Instead I cut a pattern for a plain band, the same width and depth as the elastic panel, and gathered the excess fabric onto it. I didn’t have any dress fabric, and besides I wasn’t sure if the pattern would work, so used the old left over Ikea duvet cover to make a toile, or muslin.
This was quickly followed by a couple of camisoles. The pattern was created by tracing over the top section of the See & Sew tunic pattern. I took the bottom of the armhole and the centre fold as my base. It didn’t want to be as loose as the tunic so the side seam was narrowed, the neckline lowered and the shoulders were shortened and narrowed. A quick search on YouTube provided techniques for adding facings and for making and inserting thin straps. Once I knew the pattern worked a Principles skirt was cut up and used for the second cami…..nothing will be safe in my wardrobe any more!
The next item was based on a favourite jacket. It’s had a lot of wear and become very pilled and bobbly but I was determined not to throw it out until I’d found a replacement. This was a bit trickier to trace around as it’s stretchy and I couldn’t bring myself to take it apart! There are lots of Youtube videos showing how to fold items to trace around them…..it’s easy enough as long as there are no darts involved…..nothing I’ve traced so far has had darts! One thing I learnt from drawing around the jacket sleeves though is that it isn’t enough to simply mark the fold line…..you need to allow a little more width when dealing with thicker, folded fabric. My first attempt resulted in the sleeve being a little too narrow. The other thing to bear in mind is your choice of fabric. It was quite a challenge searching the house for a fabric with similar properties to the original to make the toile. It needed to be thickish, stretchy and ideally something that wouldn’t need hemming. The nearest match I could find was an old fleece blanket with a pattern of enormous spots! I’d no intention of this being a finished item, it was just meant as a trial, but since the weathers cooled off I’ve worn it twice already!!
Another project has been this midi length dress, recycled from a charity shop buy. It was four sizes too large for me but I loved the fabric and knew it would come in useful sometime! After taking it apart the sleeves were used to made saddle bag pockets, the side seams were taken in and the hemline scalloped. I’m not normally a flowery type but it’s worn with a pair of wide leg linen trousers and I absolutely love it!
I’m loving my new hobby and getting a bit obsessive with it….these items are just a few of what’s been made so far from recycled fabrics. Although our shops are not fully open yet, last weekend I did manage to pick up a couple of new dress fabrics, neither are quite right for the Masai dress but it will be fun making something from them!