A new look for a plain or unloved garment.

A new look for a plain or unloved garment.

I attended a community craft group a few weeks ago, and one of the groups was working on a ‘Make do and Mend’ topic. The idea of this group is to add some embroidery, or stitching to an unloved garment, and instead of adding it to the landfill problem, give it a new lease of life.

I have an unlined linen summer weight jacket, bought from a charity shop a few years ago, so I bought that along with me for the next meeting, and got some advice from the leader of the group. The jacket is a natural/neutral colour, and the care label states that the fabric is a linen 60%/viscose 40% mix, made in England, for BHS (British Home Stores), a much loved department store in the UK, now defunct, leaving a lot of misery in the wake of it’s closure in 2016.



The group leader suggested adding some embroidery stitches along the seams, the pockets and the collar. I chose two muted colours of embroidery floss that I liked, and thought they would suit the fabric, and began practicing the stitching on a piece of scrap fabric.

I stitched along the shoulder and sleeve seams, cuffs, and the pockets.


I had some narrow lace, but it was a little too white, so I had a root around (with permission!) in the group leader’s bag of goodies for a piece that was a better colour match, and I was given a piece to use. I attached this to the top of the pockets, and along the collar edge, using a slip stitch with a polyester sewing thread.





I added some more stitching to the centre fronts, I felt it was needed.


I am on the look out for some pretty buttons to replace the current four, but if I cannot find any I will reattach them with a similar colour thread that I used for the embroidery.

I am very pleased with this ’embellishment’ of my jacket. I will probably add some more stitching to it, especially to the back, maybe a little bit of boro stitching. I need to look for some small pieces of muted colour fabric scraps in my scrap bag(s) and then have a serious think about it. The group leader suggested some lazy daisy stitches for the pocket top edges, but I’m not sure – I wanted to keep the inside edge neat. The lace attachment is very neat using a slip stitch. I may change my mind about the pocket edges though.

I do not have any expertise taking photographs, just my phone camera, and then reducing the sizes for the post. I really hope the photos show how a little stitching can change and enhance a garment, and make it loved once more.


28 thoughts on “A new look for a plain or unloved garment.

  1. The transformation is wonderful! What a good idea to re-invent a tired garment and save it from being discarded. Love the combination of lace and stitching on the collar and pocket.
    I bet you’re looking at other stuff in your wardrobe now 🙂

    The High Street isn’t the same without BHS.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments Lyn. I am really happy with it, and yes I am looking at other things in my closet!

    1. Thank you so much. I miss the store so much too. That awful Mr G indeed.

  2. Great to see that some imaginative embellishing keeps an item from the growing discarded clothes mountain. It looks lovely.

  3. That’s a “me too” for missing BHS, especially their Christmas Shop sections in December! Apart from Mr G, I think that internet shopping did for them, as it seems to have done for a lot of department stores.
    I think that the lace around the collar of the jacket along with the neat stitching looks really good (as does the rest of the additions you’ve done).

    1. Regarding buttons if you know a tame woodworker you might get him to make you some wooden buttons from the odd twig or branch (depending upon the size of the button hole) They look really good and of course are a natural material. Alternatively, antler horn buttons look good too, though you need to make sure that no dogs get too close. Antlers used to be really cheap/free not so long ago and then some enterprising person realised that dogs like to eat/chew them and now you have to pay through the nose for them.

    2. Thank you Ann, and for the great ideas for buttons too.
      Our local Debenhams closed down last year too.

  4. I loved BHS too Marie. It left Ireland a number of years ago – it was replaced by Penneys (Primark) which is not the same. One thing about these older clothes was in my opinion the fabric used was of superior quality to what you find around these days (in the more affordable ranges). The quality of the fibre in your jacket stand out even in the photo so it was a wise choice to work on.
    Your stitches are beautiful and they blend in so well with the garment. I suspect if you were to purchase it with its enhancements you would be looking at high end shopping.
    I hope you find your buttons. I have loads of vintage ones here if you would like to tell when what you have in mind, I can see if I might have something you might fancy. Sure you are only a ‘stone’s throw’ away by post!

    1. Thank you Helene for your lovely comments. I will indeed seriously consider your button suggestion too – as we are a ‘stone’s throw’ away! Such a kind offer.

  5. What a great idea to embellish pieces that you aren’t so happy with anymore. Your stitch additions are lovely. Good luck finding buttons.

    1. Thank you Ruth. It is definitely something I will do again, so enjoyable too.

  6. Adding embroidery to a garment is a wonderful way to give it new life. I just finished making myself a Studio Tunic by Sew Liberated and, although it’s new and I absolutely love it, I have been toying with the idea of adding a cheeky cat peeking out of one of the pockets…

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who likes adding stuff to their clothes 🙂

    1. Thank you Leonor. I hope you do add some stitching to your garment.

  7. I think your “new” linen jacket is fabulous. The embroidery changes and lace adornment made all the difference. You are certainly right about older fabrics. Many years ago when my children were small, my father made beautiful strip quilts for our 2 young daughters who shared a room. They weren’t abused, yet there were times they needed a gentle washing…because they were kids. Those lovely quilts weren’t in use, very long at all, before they started to wear and rip at the stitching lines. We were told later, finishes applied to contemporary quilt fabrics, makes them frail and prone to wear quicker. Back to your lovely jacket: I like your idea of changing the buttons. But, I also feel using the updated embroidery thread would work equally well. Well done, Marie! It’s a real gem now.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments. I loved hearing about the quilts your father made for your daughters.

  8. Thank you for this post, it has inspired me. I have a beautiful linen dress I no longer wear because of water stains on it. I had thought about dyeing it but perhaps embroidery embellishment would be a good way to go.

    1. Oh Marion, how exciting, I hope that you enjoy making your dress more beautiful. I do so wish that I had not got rid of a linen dress about 15 years ago. I wish you every success.

  9. Any time Marie. If you let me know what you have in mind I will start rummaging. You may be lucky and find ‘the ones’ but if not, well what’s the saying ‘no harm no foul’.

  10. The additions make such a difference. They are subtle but really take it up a notch. I think the buttons on it go well with it. changing up the thread would be nice.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments Ann, I am giving the buttons some serious thought.

  11. Marie, you have certainly elevated the ‘good’ into the ‘high end’. I love that you have a subtle change of colour too around your beautifully stitched jacket.

    Buttons – if you don’t change them you could look at sewing through the button holes in a pattern. Pinterest is a great source for ideas. The pattern could echo your stitching pattern & you could then use each of the thread colours one per button.

    Alternatively have you thought of coconut shell buttons. The same buttonhole stitching above could apply.

    BHS, Debenhams etc = 😞

    Hope you show us any other of your fashion up-grading please 😉

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I have thought of extra stitching for the buttonholes, but as a floating thought, so to speak! But, I will definitely give it some serious thought now. Thank you so much.

  12. Hi again – I don’t know why I ended up being ‘anonymous’!

    My thinking was stitching a pattern into the 4 holes of your buttons….a ‘v’ with a diagonal (arrow) would work well with your beautiful stitching.

    1. Now that is really a good idea, especially if you used a fancy yarn and made several passes over the stitches to really make them stand out. I must remember this.

    2. Thank you Antje, the holes in the buttons do need thinking about, and I have been thinking about this, along with keeping the current buttons, or look for others. But, your comment made me think of adding stitching to the buttonholes too. I’m giggling here thinking of the Two Ronnies and their ‘4 candles’ sketch!!

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