Fabric Stash Reduction

My idea sketchbook is getting well used lately, as I switch from brain-storming about one craft to another. The most recent page is entitled “I need to use some fabric!” and has lots of ideas listed.

I’d already concluded that I should use thicker fabric first to maximise the amount of space made in the time I take. Corduroy, denim and velvet are the thickest fabrics in my stash. But what to make out of it?

I have two big batches of corduroy and four denim pieces of varying size and thickness. The pin cord shirt in my wardrobe is a big favourite and I’ve long thought about making a pattern from it. I bought a pattern for a denim jacket a while back that might work for corduroy.

I also have a straight denim skirt pattern that I bought it a while back for some black denim I have, but what made me hesitate to make it is the stiffness and non-stretchiness of the denim. It not make a comfortable skirt, but the corduroy could be a good alternative.

The thinner denim in the stash would work a 50/50 skirt (a skirt with denim on the back and a print cotton on the front. I don’t have any fabric set aside to use on the front side, but I have a few ideas for making cloth using patchwork or embellishment. The pattern is familiar, but I already have two 50/50 skirts and don’t really need more skirts.

The velvet is leftover from a regency dress I made some years ago. There’s not a lot of it, but it might work in combination with other fabric. Like in a bomber jacket, maybe. Or a 50/50 skirt. Or maybe pillow covers.

While not thick fabric, the three knit fabrics in my stash are worth considering, too, because I want to make the same garments from all of it – leggings and long-sleeved tops – so I’d probably do them all at once. My wardrobe will always welcome more leggings and long-sleeves tops, too. However, I’ll have to make a pattern for both, so it’s a project that has it’s own challenges.

Other projects I’ve considered don’t make a lot of space but the patterns are familiar and quick to make, like shorts and pyjama pants. I also want to make a cotton petticoat, which ought to be an easy piece to do. But my mind keeps returning to the corduroy, so I that’s going to be first on the cutting table.

Sewing Upcycle Day

On the weekend a bunch of friends had a refashioning day. We met at 11am then, after I showed them some clothing I’d refashioned as examples of what can be done, we headed to Savers. I didn’t find anything I wanted but I already had a few garments awaiting work so I didn’t mind.

By the end of the day the most sewing I’d done was adding elastic to a skirt waistband and unpicking the waistband of another skirt. However, we did lots of brainstorming. It was a fun day and it was so nice to hang out with friends again.

One friend had filled her car boot with fabric to destash and I picked up three pieces. The next day, while packing things away, I decided I had to come up with better fabric storage than the two big plastic tubs I was using. They are too heavy for me, and though they’re on the bottom shelf of the cupboard and have wheels there’s not enough space in front of the cupboard to roll them out onto the floor.

I did an image search of the internet for fabric storage ideas and one suggestion that kept coming up was keeping fabric in a filing cabinet. That reminded me of the hanging file storage bins I’d bought years ago when we were renovating and I needed to keep certain documents at hand rather than in storage. They were useful when we moved here, too, but had languished in the garage since.

So I brought them inside and washed off the dust and cobwebs. Then I set about taking fabric out of plastic zip lock bags in the tubs and refolding it to better fit the hanging files. I labelled everything and shuffled a few things in the cupboard to fit better. The boxes are light enough for me to carry and I like the result:

They divide the fabric into “heavy”, “light”, “lining and structural” and “projects”. But there is one problem. See that pile of fabric in front of the cupboard? Well, while most of it is calico to use when testing patterns, the rest is fabric batches too big to fit in the filing boxes: a very long length of corduroy and some thick light brown denim.

I may have to switching from refashioning to sewing from scratch, in order to reduce the fabric stash enough that I can get everything in the cupboard.

Flying Fox Coat Part 3

It was a chat with a sewing friend that helped me push past uncertainty and continue with the coat. I told her my idea of using adhesive to stick down the interfacing strips, and she said “give it a try”. So I trimmed off the folded edges on the interfacing strips, cut pieces of iron-on adhesive and got pressing. It took two sessions to get it completely stuck, but it worked. I pressed up the hem and stitched it onto this homemade hemming tape with herringbone stitch.

Only then did I notice that the centre back panel had been sewn in inside out.

I considered unpicking, but the adhesive strip was well stuck and when I ripped a tiny bit off the fabric underneath looked different. The reverse of the wool isn’t really obvious, so I figured I’d have to live with it.

Next I needed to make the lining. I used the old lining as a base as it should match the original side-sleeves. The old backs were joined at a seam in the centre back, so I decided to do that as well. I added extra fabric so I could just pinch in the seam where it needed to be. For the fronts I added even more fabric so I could trim it to shape. I cut and sewed all the panels but for one front in case I’d got it wrong. Then I sewed them together and pinned the lining into the coat.

After a lot of fussing and making adjustments, I took the lining out again and unpicked the front piece. Using it as a pattern piece, I cut the other front. Then I sewed everything together and pinned it back inside the coat. All that was left was to hand sew it in place.

I did that a section at a time, taking things easy on my back and hands. I had to redo the wrists when I tried it on, as they hung down beyond the end of the wool hem, but that didn’t take long. When I tried it on the second time, I found I liked it best when the front bands crossed over. A search through my buttons revealed the perfect one:

I wasn’t too sure about sewing a buttonhole that included the lining, so I stitched on a press stud behind the button, adding a disc of the wool on the reverse of both sides to protect the lining.

And then it was done:

And for comparison… the original jacket:

I’m contemplating either embroidering or felting crane shapes onto the centre back panel and corresponding front sections to help to hide the fact that the back piece is inside out. If I do, I’m going to have to change the name to the Crane Coat. But for now the main thing I’m calling it is ‘finished’.

Flying Fox Coat Part 2

Happy with the colour of the wool now, I put the sleeve-sides back on the dress model:

The back would be easy. I took the old back and pinned it underneath, marked where the seam lines should go with pins, took it off and made a calico version:

Then I turned to the front. Each of the old front pieces had been double thickness, so I separated them and tried the same method. They weren’t the right shape, but I was able to tweak and pin and make a reasonable calico.

Then I stepped back and considered the result. Something about the seam line at the front bothered me. I didn’t like how it went straight up to the shoulder. So I pinned an alternative line, taking it further over into the sleeve piece and making the front panel the same width all the way up.

Much better. Next I safety pinned everything together and tried it on for fit. Happy with the result, I used the calico pieces as pattern pieces to cut the wool. I had only enough fabric to create a narrow facing for the front bands.

Next I worked on fixing up the sleeve-sides. I’d hoped to leave the pockets as they were, but the backs of them were made with lining. It hadn’t taken up any dye, which wouldn’t have bothered me, but the previously unseen specks of mould had. Ew!

The only lining fabric I had was the black I’d bought to reline my old cloak. I didn’t want to use black, however, because then the coat wouldn’t go with the navy pieces in my wardrobe. I happened to pop into a local op shop looking for a belt to recycle and had a quick peek in their fabric bin in case there was some lining. There wasn’t, but I found this gorgeous rayon:

It’s certainly silky enough to use as lining, and it goes beautifully with the grey. I may even end up with enough leftovers to make a top.

The sewing machine was ready the day before the five-day lockdown began. Phew! First up I replaced the pocket lining.

Everything got pinned back together and sewn apart from the lining. I stalled then and, as I realised I wasn’t sure how to hem the coat, my brain went “Look! Weaving!”. But I watched a few YouTube tutorials later and learned that I needed to iron-on a bias interfacing strip then fold up the wool and stitch into the strip. I had bias interfacing strips but they weren’t iron-on, I had iron on adhesive fabric, but I didn’t have something that was both. But then, maybe I didn’t need to. Maybe I could use the adhesive to iron on the interfacing. Yet I also had a lot of uncertainty that had me avoiding the coat for a while.

Flying Fox Coat Part 1

This coat has weighed on my mind for the year and a half since we cleared Late Lucy’s house. It was a quality piece, but oh so 80s. There was a coffee stain on the front, so I got it dry cleaned before taking it to the vintage shop to sell on commission. But the shop didn’t want it. I doubted that any op shop would try to sell something so out of date, so if I donated it I’m sure it’d go straight to rags.

It sure was ugly. Like someone took half of a Michael Jackson inspired coat and half of a 80s batwing coat and made a Frankenstein’s monster out of the two.

But it was “100% pure new wool” (well, obvious except for the lining and hideous plastic buttons) and I couldn’t help trying to think of ways to refashion it. Mostly I’d come up against the fact I don’t know or want to learn how to do tailoring, remind myself that I don’t need another coat, then push it to the back of the craft room cabinet.

But since my sewing jape hadn’t exhausted itself, and despite – or perhaps because of – having put my sewing machine in to be serviced, my brain kept returning to the conundrum what to do with it. That impression of two coats forced into one made me wonder what design ideas I might have if I just separated them.

The first good thing about this coat was, I had nothing to lose but the $15 I’d spent on dry cleaning. So I grabbed the Quick-un-pick. Off came the buttons, then the bat-wing sleeve-sides, then the cuffs. I put the bat-wing sleeve-sides onto the dress form on their own. They didn’t meet at the middle, but the gap at the back could be filled with a panel and a collar that swooped down to the hem would fill out the front. Did I want a bat-wing coat? I had a niggling memory that they had come back in fashion, so I searched the internet and found that yes, bat-wing was back in everything from coats to dresses to tops to jumpsuits.

It also seemed to have a cosy, unfussy vibe – like the Tessuti Berlin Coat only with bat-wing sleeves. Or maybe I should tap into the Australian wildlife version and call them flying fox wings? That gave me a better name for the coat than “Late Lucy’s Ugly 80s Coat”!

The second good thing about this coat was that it contained a LOT of fabric. However, I do not wear cream. It makes me look ill. Fortunately, I’d snatched up two packs of Dylon cold dye in ‘black velvet’ at a sale a while back, and I had enough that I might be able to get a nice grey. I like grey whether it’s light, mid or dark so I was sure to get something I liked. Theoretically. I followed the directions and…


Sewing Confidence & the Skirt-Jumper Conversion

Having successfully made three garments from handwoven fabric, my sewing confidence was high. I thought: “What next?”. I wanted to refashion of one of Late Lucy’s dresses to either a dress or top. Last year I made a calico test version of a dress pattern I thought would suit, but it came out badly. I’d decided to make a simple gathered peasant top instead. But even as I made the first cut I had that niggly feeling things weren’t going to work out, and I was right. Pity. The fabric is lovely, but it’s now mostly cut into small pieces. I will pack it away until some other idea comes to me or I stumble on a promising pattern.

After that, my sewing confidence was dinted. Do something simple, I told myself. I considered the to-do list.

Back in the late 80s, when fashion favoured volume and bordered on costume, I made a cloak. It was black and made out of good quality wool, and I wore it quite a bit – mostly to and from Melbourne CBD where I was studying “Promotional Design” but also when I went out at night with friends. It was wonderfully warm and didn’t have the restriction of movement for the arms that most heavy coats have so was great when carting folios around. Eventually the lining wore through and the wool started looking a bit pilled, so I made a new one to replace it. Last year I bought fabric to reline the old cloak. I thought I might shorten it to a cape. Was it time to work on it?

I put the cloak on the dress form and decided I should also remove the hood as it was way too deep and would either slip off backwards or fall down and cover my face. The hem was very uneven, I noted. It had never occurred to me as a new sewer to level it…. and I suddenly felt all sentimental and nostalgic. I realised this garment sums up so much of my youth. It and my debutante dress are the two pieces I think of when I think back to my early sewing days. How could I cut it up?

Darn it!

So the old cloak got packed away. I considered shortening the newer cloak, as I don’t really wear it these days and I was still keen on the idea of a cape, but suddenly the conversion felt too challenging. I began thinking that maybe this sewing jape was over. I’d faffed about for a few days and got nothing done. Perhaps I should finally get around to having my machine serviced. Considering that I’d adopted the machine from Mum ten years ago and hadn’t had it serviced once… yeah, it was definitely long overdue.

Off it went to the service man. With the machine out of the house, I figured my mind would turn to something other than sewing.


Projects on the refashion list and the projects on it kept nagging at me, keeping me awake at night. “I can’t do anything without a machine!” I protested. “Ah, but you still have an overlocker!” my brain replied. “One of these projects only needs an overlocker.” I gave in. After all, if I tackled it my brain would be satisfied and stop making me want to sew.

This was one of five knit wool skirts from Late Lucy’s wardrobe:

Too old fashioned for op shops, they would only end up in the recycling or trash. I began wearing the only one that fit me around the house last winter, and it was very comfy though not all that flattering. I’d had the idea of turning them into dog or lap blankets. The above grey one was the only one with pleats, which made it unsuited to a blanket conversion. While partway into putting one on the dress form to see what I could make of it, I suddenly realised it could be made into a jumper. All it would take was slashing it up from the hem to what would become the armpit. All done with the overlocker.

So I pinned and tried it on and adjusted and overlocked. It worked out pretty well, though I should have anticipated that pleating over my stomach would add bulk where I’d rather it didn’t. It will be another cosy garment to throw on at home in winter. And I could cut it down the front and make it a cardigan. Hmm.

My sewing confidence had lifted again, which meant my mind didn’t stop thinking about sewing. Instead it latched onto another Late Lucy garment refashion. This time a much scarier one. But as with the skirts, it was a piece that would probably become rags if it went to the op shop, so I nothing to lose. That one, however, will take a few posts to explain.

Handwoven, Handmade

Early last year I wove fabric with the intention of making two tops in the same style as this top I made several years back and then embellished in 2016:

The first was woven from some fine blue yarn with white cotton slubs along it, that I got as part of a mill ends batch. I call it my Little Fluffy Clouds top.

The second was woven from some leftover and new Seta Soie Silk. I call it my Seta Soie top.

I’m resisting the urge to add darts on the front and back. For years my style has been fitted on the top and loose on the bottom, but I adopted it back when I didn’t have much of a bust and anything loose made me look flat-fronted. Now I certainly don’t have that problem. I’m more of an hourglass than a pear, and anything too fitted shows more than just the flattering bumps and creases. Loose on the top works with fitted on the bottom, or loose on the bottom so long as there’s a waist, or a suggestion of one.

Shadow Weave Vest

In May last year I finished this shadow weave jacket:


It was a fudged solution to a failed attempt at replicating a knitted jacket in woven cloth. I knew I wouldn’t wear it, and I didn’t, so wound up in the refashion pile.

A few months ago, when I was having the fabric/sewing clear out, I started playing with it again. I unpicked the seams and considered the fabric pieces I had, and after some playing on the dress model I mapped out a plan:

Did I make a calico? Nope!

And then didn’t have the courage to start sewing. But last week I bit the bullet, so to speak, and got stuck into the sewing.

It’ll need a closure of some kind if worn on it’s own. I’m thinking press studs.

The back was a ‘make it work’ moment, as I’d wrapped the top of the sides over the shoulder in the hopes of using less fabric for the back, and have enough left over for sleeves.

I do love how the shadow weave pattern looks here.

That wasn’t to be. I could have made 3/4 length sleeves, but I hate them, and short sleeves would look odd in fabric this thick. So I decided it would have to be a vest/top. The only seams I’m not 100% happy with are the armholes, which gape a little at the back of the right side, but otherwise I’m pretty chuffed with how it came out. And amazed at how secure the overlocked edges are.

I’m quite chuffed with how it turned out. I don’t need another vest, but the only alternative was to throw out some perfectly good handwoven fabric. At least this one is cotton, so I don’t need to wear anything underneath to prevent contact with my skin. Which might mean it’ll get more wear than my knitted vests.

Tablecloth Pants

But not what you’re probably imagining! No gingham or embroidery, though that could be awesome. Years ago I requested a black tablecloth for a birthday or Christmas. Mum couldn’t find black so she opted for this dark charcoal which kinda worked in our old place.

We live in a different house with a different colour scheme now so when I culled our table linens recently I decided the charcoal tablecloth should go. But where to? Op shop? I like the fabric, with it’s subtle textured grid pattern, though not so much as a tablecloth. It seemed more suited to clothing. So I popped it in my fabric stash.

I imagined it becomming a shorts jumpsuit at first, and when I found a pattern I snapped it up. But after my recent decision to retire and replace two pairs of summer cotton pants it was kinda obvious what the tablecloth needed to become.

After I made the Bed Sheet Pants I made some adjustments to the pattern. I also decided to put back pockets on this pair. The fabric was slightly stretchy, so I had to take care when sewing to avoid wobbly seams. I got the waistband right this time, too.

You’ll have to trust me that they look good on! It’s not the most flattering way to photographing grey pants, hanging them against a door, and these days I just don’t have the energy to set up a tripod or chase Paul in order to have a pic of me modelling clothes.

The sewing bug hasn’t been exhausted yet, so I am now making a new dress out of one of Late Lucy’s. Or I will be, if the test run of the pattern works out. And that has been interrupted by the start of a weaving workshop that I’m really enjoying. More on that later…

Pants from Sheets

Finished yesterday. Wearing them today.

The pattern instructions lost me where the waistband attaches to the waist. I matched up the notches but there was no overlap for the button. I thought maybe I’d misinterpreted the zipper part, but it turns out the notches were wrong and the extra cinching in of the gathering thread would have got me the overlap. Which also explains why the pants were so big around the waist that I had to take them 2cm at the sides and add elastic across the back.

I didn’t discover the mistake until after I’d taken them in, so there could be no unpicking and regathering. So I just added an extra tab. The elastic will add a bit of room around the waist for varying girth.

The legs were about 5cm too short so I did as small a hem as I could manage. I noted all the adjustments on the pattern.

Though I’m kinda chuffed to be wearing a garment made from old sheets, I’m not a big fan of light coloured pants, so these will be dyed at some point. Natural dyed, if possible. It’s a pity I didn’t make these a few weeks ago, as all the windfall from recent stormy days has got a bit dried up now. Maybe the leaves still have dye potential, but I wouldn’t be able to do eco printing as they’re all curled up and brittle.

Now that the test pants are done I intend to make ‘actual’ pants from the pattern. They’ll be made from a dark grey cotton table cloth with an interesting grid texture that seems to be about the same weight of fabric.