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WoCaR 2023 – Week 6

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


27 January

A not entirely unexpected setback on the socks today.

I mended the heel as with the other sock, that wasn’t a problem.

But when I tried it on I noticed two things…

  • The knitted patch was too uncomfortable
  • The yarn was thinning at the ball of my foot, extending over to where the patch was stitched down

The two things taken together meant one thing: I had to take the patch off and do something else. Thankfully it was only really connected around the outside. The most fiddly bit was unweaving all the tails.

The uncomfortableness of the patch was because I hadn’t removed the layer of yarn below it, but I still wasn’t comfortable doing that. Because there was a thinning area too I decided to go with a combo swiss darn/stocking web darn, creating one seamless, odd shaped reinforcement.

I started out with the thinning area and created my thread support structure in the hole when I started working near the hole itself. Hopefully this will work!


28 January

(Spoiler alert) Success!

I finished this off while on the phone to my parents. Walking around it felt SO MUCH better. There are one or two places I got a bit muddled: I thought there was a decrease somewhere within the area that had worn away, but then when I actually got to stitching at the top there was one more column of stitches than I’d anticipated. Oh well, it’s not hurting anything.

And that means these socks are done!

So I turned my attention to the other pair.

Why am I posting this picture again? I forgot to take a before picture of the green sock. It’s there on the upper right, turned inside out. Very weirdly, one sock was perfectly fine, but this one had a massive worn/holey patch at the ball of the foot. It has a smooth, almost felted feeling outside and fluffy inside. I was curious to see how the mend would feel once finished.

Thankfully the worn area just fit on the larger of my mending discs, and I did a honeycomb darn to suit the shape of the holey/worn area.

Tilly, as always, just barely tolerating this.

Trying it on (Mr Team Sikel: “does Colin know you’re wearing on his socks?” Me: “I’m just trying them on to make sure they’re comfortable and not thinning anywhere else”), it felt really nice. I might’ve felt alright cutting out the worn area where the patch was going to go, especially as the shape had warped. But I left it in because there was still a bit of fluff there. I made sure to pick up the worn area with the blanket stitching as I went around, and all those little stitches (thankfully!) scrunched it back into place without any weird textures.

I’m really sad to be done with Colin’s socks. I think there may be one or two of mine in need of a little reinforcement, but nothing as challenging (and skill-building) as this.


29 January

I quilted, trimmed, and did the machine stitching part of the binding on the mini quilts.

I tried some new styles of quilting out, some more successfully than others. I was going full speed ahead for the vortex and got it very wrong in the middle.

Attempt 2 at that:

There will be an attempt 3!


30 January

I’d been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately – I’d given myself a couple of unrealistic deadlines and was stressing about those. Looking back it was all very silly, but obviously I wasn’t in the headspace to think about things logically. So I spent a good chunk of this day tackling one of those to dos (watching some business-related talks) while ALSO tidying up my craft room.

There are no before photos because I forgot. It looked bad and felt stressfull to be around, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. Mostly lots of things put down the first free space I could find instead of their proper homes.

I promise you this is clean compared to what it was! Still some work to do, and some projects out and waiting, but much better.

I also worked on the hand binding of some of the mini quilts.


31 January

A little more tidying, a little more listening to things, finishing off the binding of the last mini-quit.

No closeups but you can see attempt 3 on that centre bit. I’m going to leave it there.

I also decided to wash all the miniquilts! This is the last step to see how all the different styles of quilting look after to help me decide on what to do for the main quilt. Did you forget that existed?

Adding to everything else on I started planning a project that’s been on my mind for a while: pj bottoms.

In addition to my putting things down wherever habit, I also often leave things out as a reminder of things I want to get around to. These have been out on the side for weeks, and while I did play with layouts (whether I could do sets or just bottoms) and even I pressed the lighter blue fabric, I’m going to put them away until I finish the quilt.


1 February

Before and after – I thought it better to have them in the same day next to each other for better shrinkage comparison.

They didn’t magically get whiter, the lighting is a bit yellow in the living room in the evening. A few more closeups:

I put my favourite at the end. I do like the very close lines a lot, too, but I’m trying to be realistic. These wider spaced lines will already be a lot of work on the larger top. Not entirely sure how I’m going to mark those but I’ll cross that bridge once I’ve tackled stitching in the ditch.

I also started cracking on with the last bit of Mr Team Sikel’s christmas present: flannels

One’s finished (though I have to undo part of it to add a hanging tab), and I’m hoping to have one ready for hand finishing for Saturday as that’s probably all I’ll be able to squeeze in around canal and D&D.


2 February

Eked out a little time to join up the ends of the binding

While Simon was watching rugby I machine sewed one binding and added a loop that’s probably far too big.


Reflection

I struggled a bit towards the end of this past week. After the high of the socks I’m floundering a bit with a few WIPs (work in progress), while also still planning new projects…not really the best combo. I’ll try to focus on a few outstanding projects (yes this means the larger quilt) before starting something new.

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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!