Time for a new hobby

Time for a new hobby

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! 


30 thoughts on “Time for a new hobby

  1. Karen, I just love your large spot jacket. The style is great and in fact it looks much smarter than the original. You ought to market the pattern!
    So far I’ve reserved my charity shop purchases for nuno felt making. I’ll be looking at them and my other bits again now, so thanks for this post

    1. Recycling is so rewarding, I was also mainly using my charity shop purchases for Nuno or art quilts but this new hobby opens up so many more possibilities. I was pleasantly surprised at how well that jacket turned out!

  2. This was the most wonderful posting! I wish I had time to do the same–I’m a veterinary nurse/technician and we’ve been open this whole time and just dying of overwork. I have long wanted to try to copy some favorite garments. And reusing/recycling fabric appeals to me. I have an Ikea duvet cover that would be wonderful for a fun dress or casual tops. Keep posting more!

    1. Thanks Meriel, I hope you find the time to have some fun and recycle that duvet cover one day! In the meantime your customers must be very grateful that your veterinary practise has remained open during the pandemic.

  3. I’m so impressed Karen. I’m useless at making clothing and yours look so professional. What a great skill to have. I look forward to seeing more.

    1. Thanks Ruth. I bought a second hand serger just before lockdown…..scary machine to begin with but now I love it and that’s opened up so many more possibilities!

  4. Wowza Karen! You have done great work here. I love every make! Especially the jacket. I am not allowed another hobby! I already know how to sew, but these days I am more of a mender and adjuster with the sewing. Lockdown has afforded me the time to get on with the wet felting and perfecting techniques. I need to use up all of the wool. 🙂

    1. Thanks Arlene. Your making me feel a bit guilty now cos I’ve not felted for nearly two months!! I must put the fabrics down and pull out the fibre this week!

    2. Don’t feel guilty! You have made some wonderful items. I have only been felting since last March, so I do have a lot to catch up on and all of this free time has given me the opportunity to do so! I feel guilty about not picking up a paintbrush for over a year! Sometimes a change is as good as a rest! 🙂

    3. You’re right Arlene, it’s nice to have a change and learn something new once in a while….keeps the old grey matter on its toes! Enjoy your free time Felting!

  5. The Great British Sewing Bee recently had a ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ challenge for the contestants. Apparently there are already enough garments on the planet to clothe the next 6 generations.

    Your re-styled midi dress and smart spotty fleece jacket would have wowed the judges! They’re both stunningly beautiful.

    You’ve certainly got a talent for re-styling and it must be so satisfying.

    1. Yes, I saw that episode….wasn’t it great! I particularly liked the maxi dress made from old jumpers…..now there’s a thought!

  6. You don’t seem bothered by copying a designers work at all
    It is not really the thing to do at all and to openly post about it -I hope the designers see this

    1. You are entitled to your opinion but I don’t see why you, or anyone else, should have a problem with what I’m doing. I’m not profiteering from making outfits for myself!

  7. Great Job on the up cycling. I love the poke a dot jacket. The midi dress makes me think of the time between the wars. I don’t think there is anything wrong with making patterns form existing garments if you are only doing it yourself. In fashion, once it hits the runway, it is in Walmart in 3 months anyway. That’s the way fashion works.

    1. Thanks Ann. I was going to look for a plain fabric to make that jacket in but I reckon it’s got to be a big bold design after the response I’ve had to the “spots”!

  8. It’s a ’10’ Fab-u-lus.

    Your re-cycling is great & very on trend with Patrick Grant’s comment from the Sewing Bee. You have made a great collection of ‘new’ garments that will always have an extra memory in years to come. Like so many here I just love your giant dot jacket.

    Manipulating complete clothes to make a pattern is tricky So kudos to you.

    I was brought up With my mother at the sewing machine, so used to sew garments (but no longer). I horrified my mother when I made my mid 80s wedding Dress, mixing 3 different patterns & adding newspaper additions, then without any practice sample (I’m still guilty of this today) cutting straight into the beautiful raw silk. The dress was beautiful BTW.

    Keep doing what you are doing Karen, adding & tweaking at will. I just wish I had some of your spare time

    This is obviously raising another discussion – but No designers work is ever totally unique, they will have seen a shape/design (From nature, ano fashion designer or even a built design) & tweaked it a little here & there. Think of all the designers across the globe having been designing for millennia, cross pollinating ideas – nothing is totally unique.
    I know myself that over the years there have been a number of occasions when I have experimented & Finally come up with a ‘unique’ idea only to find a while later that someone else on our planet, totally unrelated, has undertaken the same thought process & come to the same conclusion – something that is happening zillions of times & will continue so.

    1. Wow….cutting straight into your silk fabric without making a sample? Your braver than me Antje! That must have felt wonderful to walk down the aisle in your own creation!

  9. Great post, Karen. As usual your enthusiasm and creativity shine through. I too find no problem with learning from an existing garment to make something for yourself. I only wish I had your sewing skills. I also love the recycling & repurposing of fabric. Bravo!

    1. Thanks Lindsay, glad you enjoyed the post. With most of my previous sewing being free motion stitch I wasn’t sure if I would have the patience for dressmaking. Pleased learn to I do!

  10. A great idea to start a new hobby and include recycling and pattern making! Kudos to you and lovely creations.

  11. Wonderful post and well done for starting a new hobby, very successfully too, the first thing or maybe the first ten things I made went straight in the bin! You have made some wonderful things and that jacket is fabulous!

    I am a bit shocked at the horrible comment from Daycrhisse, I totally disagree that you are copying designers work, you are making it your own and not selling. bless her, she comes across as a very unhappy person, so pleased you didn’t let let that comment affect you.

    look forward to seeing more of your creations!

    1. Thank you for your kind words Susanna. We are on the same wavelength regarding that ‘comment’. So glad you got in touch as your blog looks the perfect tonic!

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