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WoCaR 2023 – Week 8

This post in a series keeping track of my Winter of Care and Repair 2023 Project. If you want to see all the posts in the series click here


10 February

Repair cafe! Colin loved his socks, which I’m glad about. It’s always nice to do a repair for someone who appreciates it.

I had been given a mouse-nibbled coat to work on during the session. Normally I don’t count these but this was definitely skill-building.

There were actually three repairs: the exterior, the lining (which was similar damage though in a different place), and the pocket. All had been nibbled.

The pocket I don’t have any pictures of, but I acted upon a lesson I’d learned at a previous repair cafe: If a pocket bag is damaged, if possible just replace the damaged portion. Don’t darn it.

  • Leave the bit that’s attached to the exterior of the item of clothes (plus some extra to use as seam allowance), and cut away the damaged section.
  • Separate the layer of the damaged section and use them as pattern pieces to cut out of new fabric.
  • Separate the seams a bit on the section still attached to the clothes
  • Sew each section of new fabric to the bit still attached to the clothes
  • Resew the seam around the pocket

Much better than trying to darn thin pocket bag material.

As for the other mends:

Thankfully the lady who brought the jacket in had brought some patching material, so I just used those to put patched over the top of the holes. I figured square patches looked better than ragged edged holes with patching material behind, though on the lining I zig zagged the edges of the hole down.

If I were doing this for myself I would’ve probably done the exterior patch a bit differently to try and keep as much waterproofness as possible, but it should be fine.

As is, she was just going to donate it to a charity shop after the mend. After chatting with my fellow fixperts, we weren’t sure even the lovely local charity shop would take a repaired item. But one of them needed a new coat like this, so she offered to take it away for a donation to the group of the lady’s choice. Win win!

When I got home I darned another not-quite-hole in a canvas bag.

Tilly, as always, is barely tolerating this distraction from fussing time.


11 February

Remember the duvet cover from last week? I did some machine stitching to reinforce the patches. I’m not sure it worked. Well it obviously worked, but I’m not sure it looks as good as it did in my head.

Now I managed to unpick the fold from the lower left corner of the first patch, and remove all the loose threads, and it looks a lot better. But I have a feeling I’d redo the zig zags at some point. It probably wouldn’t have been as bad if I’d used a light blue or grey. I’ll live with it for a few weeks though and see how it holds up.

Not everything has to be a resounding success with artistic merits. If it works that’s often good enough.


12 February

Worked on another bit of bedding, this time a fitted sheet. It had a few holes and an L-shaped tear. I’d originally put it in the pile for things to be used to patch, but I changed my mind as there really wasn’t that much damage. This was the worst of it:

You start with a herringbone stitch to hold the sides together as you darn – I’m never sure if I’m doing this right but it works well enough.

And then you darn over each section – this one ended up being a little more complicated because of the additional hole, but it wasn’t bad.

I think I’d like this better if I’d used a lighter thread for the herringbone. I’m also not sure if you can unpick it at this point. I’ll have to reread my mending books.


13 February

We’ve been in the house over a year now, and of course there’s still stuff that doesn’t have a home. One area that desperately needed some help was our board game storage. I don’t have any pictures of the before, but it’d overgrown its original cupboard and spilled over on the top of another storage unit. So we had some shelves delivered and built them today.

This shelf is MASSIVE. We’d ordered online so I wasn’t fully prepared for the size. It still fits in the space but is going to take some getting used to.

If we’d gone for a 4×4 we would’ve basically filled it with things we already have. This gives us some space for additional games in future.


14 February

A bit more work on the fitted sheet from the other day.

An uncharacteristically muted patch from me, I know, but I had a white square of fabric already serged left over from something else, and I used some of the thread from the tails to anchor everything down.

Tilly got properly grumpy with this mend, and stropped off to her cat bed soon after the photo.


15 February

A bit more work on the shelving, building the drawer inserts for the bottom. We have some glass shelves to put in but my husband and I are at odds about whether or not we need them. I agree we need something for the small games, but I think having them across one row (our original plan) takes up too much space that would be useful for other things.

We’ll have to see what we decide to do.


16 February

Another nematode application. We’ve had a good result from last week – I’m already noticing a lot fewer flies flying around, though I’m sure a lot of that is due to the sticky traps included in the set. They’re still there though, so fingers crossed the repeated applications will help reduce their numbers even further.


Let’s see what next week brings!

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WoCaR 2023 – Week 5

This post in a series keeping track of my Winter of Care and Repair 2023 Project. If you want to see all the posts in the series click here


20 January

Cut up scraps for more mini-quilts. With what I had left the biggest plain squares I could get a bunch of was 3″, so I based a few patterns off those.

I’m not entirely happy with the first one. The second one is based on this quilt I found on Pinterest (though I didn’t have as much gold and white to do the checkerboard. For best random effect I think I need more squares, as I really struggled to lay them out. I have another in mind like this using some fabric I bought in a destash, but more on that if/when I get around to it.

I also want to make a scrappy vortex quilt using up as many of my remaining scraps as possible, as I have no idea where I’d put them or how I’d use them otherwise. So I took some time to lay out a few pairs as well. Will this turn out alright with so few fabrics? Who knows! But at worst it’s practice.

In the shower later a new layout came to me for the top I wasn’t happy with – thankfully I had a spare white square to make it work.


21 January

Assembled a few more mini-quilt tops, using up nearly all my scraps. I used the scrappy vortex assembly as leaders and enders for the “proper” tops, until I’d finished those off.

The first two are about 8″ square, the scrappy one is 12″ square.

I also cut and assembled some binding for these quilts. Backing will probably just be the nativity dot fabric to use that up, though I’ve got a few spare black/white fat quarters I haven’t even cut into. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, as it’ll create more scraps I’ll feel compelled to use!

That evening the power went out for a few hours due to the high winds. My husband and I were playing a board game so we just put on head torches and continued. But afterwards we sat on the comfy seats and I stitched up more of the binding on the giant towel I mentioned last week.


22 January

I’d worn a coat I hadn’t used in a while over the weekend, and remembered how bobbly certain areas of it were. No one noticed on the day, but I also remembered I’d bought a debobbler, so I gave that a go.

It definitely needs a clean, I may take it to the local dry cleaner’s this week.

I also felt compelled to try and fix the zip of a suitcase I found in a charity shop.

It’s a wonderful yellow Samsonite case, and although it’s not the most recent iteration of this bag design, still I’ve found it being sold online for £140+! So my £10 was a steal, even though it had a broken zip. It performed admirably as a wheely shopping trolley for use around town, and will act as a replacement short trip away bag (as my husband has stolen the Osprey one I bought for myself 10 years ago and still going strong).

I re-examined the teeth before attempting the repair, and still couldn’t find any damage, so I unpicked the lining around the bottom of the zip. I was VERY careful not to pick anything along the (as shown in the pictures) top side of the zip tape, as those stitches go through the piping and exterior of the bag. and I don’t want to compromise any waterproofing.

It was more awkward than I’d like, but I managed to feed the zip pull on both sides…and it just went along both sides without joining anything. Whoops! So I took it off again and examined the pull itself.

I wasn’t entirely sure, but it seemed like the gap towards the back of the pull (closer to the arrow), was wider than that towards the front – so maybe it just wasn’t compressing the teeth close enough together? I used a pair of pliers to pinch it back together a bit, and once again awkwardly fed both sides of the zip in.

And it worked, phew! I was incredibly pleased, though I did have a backup: the official samsonite repair partners are here, and even though shipping would cost more than the repair, it would still only cost about £35. I’d still be well below market value for this suitcase.

There was still a few little steps to finish off the job.

I put a little stop on the zip so the pull couldn’t fall off the end, and I (fairly messily) stitched the lining back onto the zip. I might need to fix that again at some stage, but my plan is to just try not to use that pocket much, and definitely not overload it.

I’ll report back on Instagram once I’ve actually used it.


23 January

Finished off the towel binding, with the “help” of Tilly

I still have some flannels to do, but tbh I’ve misplaced them in the chaos that is my sewing room so they’ll happen at some point!


24 January

The weather was nice so I took Tilly out in the back garden while I spray basted the mini-quilts.

I got as far as stitching in the ditch in the two smaller miniquilts, trying out a different thread in the top and bobbin again…to less than ideal effect

To be honest I don’t entirely mind, though I know if tension isn’t right the stitching isn’t as strong as it could be. My bigger quilt is a mostly white back so I’ll just choose a lightish thread – even if the top is different it won’t nearly be as high contrast as this.

In front of The Traitors I did a little bit of stocking web darning on Colin’s socks, with the help of my vintage Mend It! book and Modern Mending.

This is the first time I’d ever attempted this kind of darn, and I’ve got a few improvements to make…namely to not stretch the fabric on over the mushroom…and make my stitches tighter. I also needed to use a contrasting thread on the supporting thread structure because I lost track of it a few times.

I’ll undo it but I’m happy with the first attempt.

In the Mend It! book, the author says this kind of darn can be fiddly on all but the smallest of holes, so I might try her recommendation of picking up a row of stitching on the sock itself and basically knitting a patch on needles to fit.


25 January

I’m definitely odd.

So today I decided to try another style of mending that I’ll be using on Colin’s socks, but this time I had something of my own to practice on.

I didn’t get a before picture of the first patch.

I love honeycomb darning – it’s soo fast and really useful on areas that are thinning but not quite turned into holes. You can also use it on holes (that’s my plan on the awkward heel holes of Colin’s socks), but I might couch a thread in the blanket stitch that makes up the darn so it’s less gappy.

But back to me being odd…

I had done the first one before heading out to my belated WI Christmas lunch. It was being held in a pub that’s a half hour walk away from my house along the canal, so I decided to leave a bit early and walk. Worrying that I might be super early I decided to bring the other sock along with me in case I was just sitting around with nothing to do.

Turns out there were some other ladies who were even earlier with me so I sat and had a chat. When we actually sat down to lunch I started chatting about the fact that I’d brought a sock to darn just in case, and as one of the ladies I was with asked to see it sometime, I took it out between courses and showed it off.

Is that normal? For me, yes. For most people, no. Thankfully they were clean, though I did say it does sometimes make more sense to mend clothes before washing them.

Anyway, that night in front of The Traitors (and some other telly) I had a go at the knitted patch and another attempt at stocking web darning.

Two downsides for me an the knitted patch: I’m not the best at figuring out gauge, so I did end up bodging it a bit (it would be easier if you’d made it yourself and knew what you’d done). I also had a mare of a time stitching down the sides of the patch. It was a bit late, the edges of my knitting always curl, and this diagram from Mend It! was doing my head in. There’s a slight ridge on the left side of the patch, but I didn’t really feel it when I put the sock on and stood on the floor. But I’m hoping Colin doesn’t have sensitive feet…given the state of these socks I’m thinking not.

The stocking-web darn, however, I’m very happy with – definite improvement over yesterday:

The my stitching might be a little loose or the wool slightly too thick, but it looks infinitely better than the other one…being a smaller hole helps.

I’ll probably still re-try the stocking web on the other hole, and then leave the patch knitting method until I have some time to practice and get my head around it.


26 January

I wore my honeycomb patched socks out, as you may have seen in my instagram stories. My feet have gotten used to patches overall, but I didn’t really feel the ones on my toes.

Would you count walking around Shrewsbury looking at charity shops a proper walk? I did end up going back to the car several times. Regardless I also did some mending in front of the telly. I started by tackling one of the massive heel holes.

As there’s lots of decreasing and adding stitches around a heel, I didn’t want to attempt a stocking-web darn. Thankfully I’d practiced the honeycomb yesterday and I basically did as I had there…except as I mentioned yesterday I couched another strand of yarn within the stitches to give it bulk.

This was all done in spite of the cat, who was desperate for a fuss. Eventually she settled and I managed to finish.

I was worried I’d maybe stretched the heel too much – it did seem a bit bigger than the surrounding sock when I’d finished. But then I remembered that this kind of mend won’t really stretch so I just tried them on.

It’s REALLY hard to get a picture of the bottom of your foot!

Anyway it looked fine, not baggy or anything, but I did notice another thinning patch on the ball of my foot. Thankfully no hole, so I did a straight swiss darn/duplicate stitch over that whole area.

The first picture is before, the second shows the mend on the left.

It was so much easier than doing it with the guiding threads!

Speaking of which I unpicked the first stocking-web darn I’d done the other day and replaced it with a (still rough but) better version (which is technically in the picture on the right above as that photo was a late addition to this post.

I know my mending books say to make the hole square or oblong but at this point in time I can’t bring myself to cut threads. I know there’s a reason for it, and someday I will do this properly, but that day isn’t today.

I also took some time tidying up ends. The only thing left to do is the other heel and this pair will be finished. I do have another pair of Colin’s socks to mend, but thankfully it’s nowhere near as bad as these – just one (large) hole on one sock that I’ll honeycomb darn the same way I did the heel today.


I feel like this week was the first proper repair-heavy week in this challenge. I do have a mending pile to see to, and hopefully this will lead to more of that.

I’m really enjoying mending knits, and wish I had more to practice on. But while charity shops will put out holey jeans, I’ve never seen a holey jumper.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed for future practice attempts at the repair cafe.

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Winter of Care & Repair

Have you heard of the #WinterOfCareAndRepair2023?

I hadn’t until Jacq (@goodtalkingto) suggested it might be something I was interested in, so I listed to @thepeoplesmending talk about it on the @checkyourthread podcast.

TBH it sounded slightly daunting at first – a challenge that lasts 90ish days. I have a spotty track record for challenges that last a month. But after I listened to the episode I left the idea to percolate for a few days. I thought of a number of things I’ve been neglecting, or things I’d like to do but sometimes find it hard to stir up the motivation – especially at this time of year.

So here we come with the very generous list. Surely I’ll hit at least one?

Between Winter Solstice 2023 and Spring Equinox 2024, I will do at least one of the following every day:

  • mend, tend, repair, care for, or otherwise maintain something I own
  • declutter, deep clean, or otherwise sort out an area of my home/garden
  • work on a creative project for myself
  • get outside for a walk or do some yoga/stretching
  • share my progress in weekly posts

It’s very easy for me to be a hermit, and to prioritise work making over something for myself. I don’t need to do much – maybe some cutting out, pinning, or a few stitches. I also keep putting off tidying up some areas of the garden, and polishing my boots. On days where I’m not feeling up to something like that (or hopefully in addition) I’ll make sure I do some kind of physical activity. I’ll also share it on here, because why not?

I’m hoping the cumulative effect of all my little bits of effort will be a sense of achievement when I look back, or just a boost to my wellbeing.

Today is the winter solstice, but don’t let that stop you from percolating up an idea for yourself over the next few days. It all sounds very much like something to give yourself a little nudge, and not a stick to beat yourself with!

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Upcycled Dress from a Poncho

I’m always on the lookout for easy secondhand wins for sewing when charity shopping. There are a few places where I could, pre-covid, sometimes find lengths of fabric or good quality duvet covers. But if not those, then something with larger panels of fabric often catches my eye. Think larger sizes, gathered skirts, generally something without much tailoring. This poncho was one of those. I forgot to get a good before photo, but found someone selling one on eBay so you can get a sense of what it looked like:

It was viscose, and more or less a rectangle of fabric – no seams, just some hemmed/bound sides around the front opening, neck hole, and sides.

It sat in my to-upcycle collection for at least a year, waiting for the right project. And that finally came as I wanted to make another True Bias Southport dress. I’d worn the ones I made last year sooo much, but they’re now too big and it’s not an easy project to resize. The only problem was that ‘more or less’ part of being a rectangle of fabric.

Pattern Tetris

The important thing when laying out your pattern pieces is to think about the grain of the fabric. Here’s a little article about what that means, but it’s important so the final garment looks like it’s supposed to and doesn’t twist out of shape. So ideally:

  • all pieces would lay along the same grain line.
  • the pattern would mostly go in the same direction – I didn’t want it to look too jarring or draw attention to the fact that it was pieced
  • I wanted a midi dress – about mid calf, so I could feel comfortable wearing it without leggings.

Despite the amount of fabric it took a while to pattern tetris my way into something that made the most of the shape I had. Here’s what I came up with:

I mostly used the cross grain here. And while the gallery above makes it look like a speedy process, it took a while!

I’m really proud of myself for finding this layout. The big winner was splitting the front and back bodice pieces. I know they’re small, but the armhole/neckline area leaves a lot of odd pieces in the fabric when cutting out. Getting those from other areas of the poncho meant I could make the most of what I had.

Ultimately I was able to get nearly all the pieces along the same grainline and with the pattern running in the same direction. The exceptions were the top of the front and back bodice pieces. Rotating those to run the same way as the rest of the dress would’ve shortened the length of the skirt and made it harder to assemble the bias binding (more on that later). And having a different pattern/fabric/etc in that section of a garment isn’t uncommon, so I hoped it wouldn’t look too out of place.

Assembly

Sewing the dress together first meant piecing all the pattern pieces together. I needed to turn 11 pieces into 4 (not counting bias binding or casing here), before I could even start with the normal construction of the dress.

The poncho is made of viscose, which can stretch and fray quite easily, so I decided to flat fell all the seams.

The sides of the original poncho were hemmed with a double fold of fabric, and I used that to my advantage when assembling the pieces. Flat felled seams are one of my favourite finishes – they hide all the raw edges, meaning your work is stronger and lasts longer. Here’s a tutorial, though I’m generally lazy and do all my sewing on the wrong side of the fabric. Most of my stitching was black on black, so if it’s a little wonky you can’t generally tell.

Unfolding those original hems after I cut the pieces meant I had the little flaps I needed to fold over and sew down without having to cut as much (if any) of the seam allowances away. I got the idea from someone on instagram, who mentioned that in commercial sewing patterns, the seam allowances for pattern pieces with flat felled seams are different so the sewists don’t have to spend time or create waste cutting excess fabric away.

It did make lining up the seams a little harder, but I just used lines of chalk on both sides and stuck pins through to make sure they lined up properly. And then used copious copious pins to hold the pieces in place so they didn’t shift.

Bias Binding

One of the last bits to assemble was the bias binding, which I took from the odd bits around the neck hole.

It always amazes me how much bias binding you can get out of what appear to be little scraps of fabric. And although it can take a lot of time, that stuff is so useful for sewing! I’d recommend everyone get at least one of the little tool you can see in the photo on the right if you make any bias binding for yourself. They come in different sizes – buy one you feel comfortable with, and then just use that size tape on your projects as long as it’s close!

Actually Sewing the Dress

The pattern itself is relatively simple, especially when you omit the button placket in the front of the dress. Here are the front and back panels, ready for sewing together. Can you tell where they’ve been pieced? I added lines on the photo to the right approximately where the extra seams are:

The little black blob at the bottom of the photo is Tilly, who decided to ‘help’ me on the photo shoot.

I made one other tweak to the pattern, beyond removing that button placket, and that was to make a casing for elastic in the waistband instead of using a drawstring. While it was on the inside of the garment (so I could’ve used whatever I had that was about the same weight), I was able find more scraps to piece it from leftover pieces of the lower skirt panels and some scraps around the neck hole I didn’t use for binding.

It ended up a little narrower than I would’ve liked, so instead of attaching one edge of the casing when sewing the bodice and skirt together, I tucked the top raw edges into the flat felled seam as I was finishing it. The lower edge was folded over and basted before sewing it to the skirt. Apologies for not having photos, it was a fairly tense operation…made even worse when I tried to thread the elastic through and realised I hadn’t caught the casing (or it frayed) in a few places along the top edge and I had to unpick and re-sew. Next time I’d stay stitch/fold over/or otherwise reinforce that top edge as well. So far it’s held up to a few wears and washes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point I have to replace it.

I also managed to stretch out the neckline while sewing on the bias binding. It’s not too noticeable, unless you sew, but it sticks out a little instead of lying flat.

A small win I had was to use the original hem as my hem on the dress – tbh it wasn’t entirely straight, but isn’t noticeable during wear, and a reminder that the things you buy in shops aren’t perfect either!

The Finished Dress

Ta Da!

I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It’s a super comfy summer dress perfect to throw on when it’s hot out. And I’m really pleased I used up so much of that poncho.

Here’s all the scraps that were left:

Scraps have this amazing ability to look huge, even though there’s really not much there. I promise those are all wonky whispers of fabric that would’ve be useful for anything besides stuffing.

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Bum Bag Zip Replacement

My trusty inner tube bum bag has been in near constant use now for over a year, accompanying me on walks and bike rides and other escapes from being stuck home during a pandemic.

So I was gutted when I broke the zip. It was totally my fault: I stuffed it really full with a wispy plastic bag on top, which got caught in the zip. Instead of taking care I just tried to force it closed/open, whacking a tooth out of place. Soon the zip just came off one side.

I couldn’t just bin the bag. I’d saved the inner tubes that made it from landfill, washed and sewed them up, pairing them with a lining made from a pair of secondhand trousers. It was such a useful thing and meant a lot to me, so I decided to replace that zip.

I’d never done a zip replacement before, but thought of no better time to give it a go. As I’d constructed the bag I knew where it was attached and more or less what would need to be done to put a new one in…I thought.

I definitely learned a lot in this process (translation: some things didn’t go exactly to plan!).

Choosing a New Zip

I love the combination of inner tube and metal teeth, so I rummaged through my stash of secondhand zips for one I liked the looks of. With a lot of repairs you have a big choice: whether to try to hide the repair or show it off. I decided to ask Instagram:

Thankfully you guys chose contrasting. To be honest, I would’ve gone contrasting even if the votes had gone the other way, but it was nice to see nearly everyone agree.

When things break it’s so easy to just toss them in the bin. Repair can sometimes seem like a subversive act. I love highlighting the mends and adjustments I make to garments to make people think.

I did decide to use black thread, though. There was going to be a lot of hand stitching and I’m out of practice so I thought it might turn out a bit rough.

Taking Out The Old

I like to do my mending work in front of the telly in the evening. This time, I had some help removing the old zip from the bag. Tilly decided to keep me company.

It made things so awkward and slightly frustrating, but she’s so tiny I can’t say no! There was a point I did have to set things aside because she got very cute and demanding for a fuss.

Zips are where I start with a lot of bag making, they tend to be really sewn in there as they’re under a lot of stress. So I carefully unpicked the stitching all around the opening. It was attached along each edge – long and short – sewn twice to the lining, and stitched in along the join on the bag’s short edges.

But it didn’t take long to remove, despite Tilly’s ‘help’.

Adding the New Zip

Adding the new zip is where things started to go wrong. For some reason I got it in my head to sew through all the layers at once. Maybe I thought it’d be faster and less hassle?

I was so wrong.

I used a double sided sticky tape (designed for sewing) to attach the zip to all the layers. If I were to do this again, I’d start with the lining only, and then go back and stitch through the exterior as well. This mimics how I sewed the bag together to begin with, so I’m not sure why I went rogue here.

Doing both sides at once meant I needed to keep an eye on a lot of different seams, but it did come together eventually.

While the tape can be frustratingly sticky, it can also shift against the inner tubes. I found it moved as I worked, so I had to undo some stitches periodically. Eventually I also put some sewing clips (a great alternative to pins for inner tubes), which helped a great deal, but there are still some areas where it’s a bit wonky.

All of the seams were resewn by hand. This opening is too small and fiddly to work through on my current machine (at least when the bag is completely assembled), and I wanted to go through the existing holes in the inner tubes to reduce damage – you can see them really well in the photo above. I reassembled with a quick running stitch to get everything in place, and then came back again later to fill in the gaps.

I’m really glad I chose black thread as I somehow managed to turn a straight line wonky, even going through the original holes as much as possible. It’s a talent!

Another downside to doing everything at once was it created a flap of lining. I was worried it might get caught in the zip, so I eventually went back later and did a (more or less) invisible stitch line in red to tack it to the zip tape:

I also reinforced the short edges of the bag with a few lines of stitching through those same holes. That’s probably the part of the bag that’s under the most strain, so I wanted to be sure it wouldn’t come undone.

The End Result & Summary

Despite all the stress I’m so happy to have my bum bag back! I really missed it for the week or two it was out of commission.

I’m so happy I’d chosen a black lined bag for myself, so I was able to use black thread on the repair. Some of my stitching looks ok on the outside, but really dodgy on the inside.

If you’re not the one using it day to day I doubt you’d notice. And it hasn’t impacted the usability of the bag at all. If I ever have to do this again, I’ve learned some valuable lessons I can put to good use doing a better job.

So if you’re thinking about doing this yourself:

  • Decide what look you want: contrasting or matching (matching thread is always a good choice for hand stitching if you’re out of practice)
  • Take your time – Don’t try to do everything at once!
  • Make sure your pins/clips/tape/glue are secure
  • Be proud of you work and the fact that you’re saved something from landfill!
  • Try to ignore any little mistakes, no one will notice them but you!

And if you’re interested in your own bum bag, you can find the rest of my limited stock here. While I love the design, I’m on a pause making any new ones until I get an industrial sewing machine.

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Moustache Trouser Alteration

Sometimes sewing can feel like a super power. It can take something sentimental but unwearable and turn it into something useful again.

I have a few smallish stacks of clothes waiting alterations and mending. I’m determined to make the most of my existing clothes after a recent weight loss:

The alternation pile contains some clothes I’ve made myself and am very proud of, some sentimental pieces, and a few purchased items of clothes I love the fabric of (or otherwise know won’t sell if I donate it). While I have a number of garments I’ll be rehoming responsibly, it would be hard for me to get rid of these.

I finally tackled the first piece yesterday: the pair of moustache trousers you can see poking out towards the bottom of the Alteration pile.

Apologies in advance for a lack of ‘before’ and ‘during’ pictures. I originally thought this was going to be a simple alternation not really worthy of a blog post, then was too in the zone to stop and document. More on that later.

The Story Behind the Moustache Trousers

I bought these trousers while travelling in 2014. I was in Turkey, staying at the home of a British couple for a few weeks to help out on their smallholding. They were a minibus ride from Yalova- the closest city and where we did a weekly shop at a farmer’s market.

I spotted the trousers while on that minibus, hanging up outside of a small shop. I bought a pair despite my lack of Turkish (I think I only picked up the words for coffee, tea, one and ten during my time there). They weren’t especially comfortable from the get go, but I wore them now as then as the viscose was cool in the incredibly hot Turkish June.

They survived with me all this time, and still bring back memories of that trip, so I couldn’t bear to part with them.

A Simple Mend… or not

I picked them as my first alteration as I thought it would be a simple case of just tightening up the elastic in the waistband, as well as repairing the slight bodge job I’d done in mending the trousers a few years ago when the original elastic in the waistband had gone.

Dodgy Prior Mend

I don’t have great pictures of it- but the original elastic was sewn into the front seam, a scrap of it was still there as I’d cut out the elastic around the stitching to make my life a bit easier at the time. I’d also just stitched new elastic in around that seam (the white stitching is visible just above the finger on the left), creating a casing just as big as the elastic I was inserting.

All I wanted to do was make proper casing and hopefully reuse that elastic.

Thankfully I was able to, but when testing out how much to tighten up the elastic, I realised the trousers weren’t comfortable at all. Further investigation led to a dodgy crotch curve. It’s hard for me to explain because I’ve only made a few pairs of trousers that fit well – but I think this comparison might help:

The shape the seam is where your pelvis goes. Basically these moustache trousers left no room for my bum. I either got a massive wedgie wearing them (in GBSB terminology: hungry bum) or couldn’t walk properly because I had to wear them so low.

This picture of me wearing them might help- the waistband should be level:

Not shown: the massive wedgie these trousers gave me

I could try and fix the problem or use the fabric with a new pattern. Alteration was the easiest option so I dug through my stash of scraps and went ahead with the only spare viscose I had on hand: a blue and white striped dress that was a bit too worn to donate to a charity shop. I figured I could get a scrap of tan viscose at some point to make the mend more subtle the next time I was in a charity or fabric shop, already knowing the shape/size patch I needed from this test.

I opened up the inseam from the crotch to about level with my knee on both legs, and then roughly measured the gap in the crotch seam that needed filling to make the waistband level again. Then I put the trousers on my work table and traced around the triangular space created when I made that same length gap in the seam. Last step was sewing in patches from the stripey dress.

Or – look what I added in this pic:

Was this going to work? No idea, but I figured at worst I could sew it back up the way it was.

The End Result

Hooray! It worked, and it wasn’t even that noticeable during normal wear. And while the thought that I could swap it out at some point convinced me to give it a go, now that it’s there, I’m going to keep the stripes. I love it. I’d even wear the trousers outside with a big ol’ badge that says ‘ Ask me about my stripey gusset!’

I tried explaining what I did to my husband but he had no idea what I was talking about. He commented though that he’s not sure he’s ever seen me happier. Hyperbole: for sure. But I won’t deny how good it felt to know I fixed these! They’re not perfect by any means, but an elastic waistband and loose drapey fabric hide so many sins.

And it reminded me of another power of mending: it adds to the history of the piece. By the time it’s no longer wearable, I’ll probably be able to write a book about this pair of moustache trousers.

Here’s a little twirl:

If I look a little groggy in that picture it’s because I woke up about 20 mins before! I wanted to get the video before I forgot.

There’s still lots more that needs alteration, and next time I’ll do my best to get before and during pictures!