Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!

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Food Coloring: Just Beet It!

All right, maybe I’m taking this color obsession a little too far… Yesterday, when I was visiting my sister up in Poulsbo, Washington, we were enjoying a wonderful home-cooked lunch at her house that included many young, delicious vegetables from her garden (and a chicken). This locovore’s delight included a dish of beautiful beets, regular (or whatever the red ones are called) and golden, together on a platter, thus:

Beets Beets, part of a delicious lunch at my sister’s house. Little did she know… Continue reading

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Stay! Taming a Beastly Narrow Hem

I was working on sewing a printed silk charmeuse top a couple days ago, the one-shouldered tunic from my Santa Fe wardrobe. This top, I might say, was by far the most straightforward garment I’ve made in quite a while; I have a tendency to complicate things by, say, adding a sheer or lace layer, tuxedo stripes to pant legs, or maybe just choosing a fabric that makes matching stripes or patterns necessary. But since I’m working with a gorgeous print (rare for me), I decided to let the fabric do the talking.

The only issue I had was the hemming of the one sleeve. It’s a slightly belled shape that forms a curving hemline; it’s also the only place on the entire garment where stitching shows on the outside  (I’m doing the lower hem by hand). And the soft, slinky, yes, silky nature of the fabric makes it among the more difficult to manipulate into a narrow hem, especially one stitched by machine.

Narrow hems: Usually, when a pattern says to finish a piece with a narrow hem, they mean a hem that’s folded under twice (hiding raw edges), then stitched. And since it’s called a narrow hem, it usually means 1/4″ wide, possibly slightly more.

I thought maybe I could do a modified version of the multi-step machine-stitched hem that I’ve used on chiffon; this technique involves stitching, trimming, stitching again, folding, pressing, stitching a third time. For my sleeve, the plan was to make good use of stay-stitching, mainly to stabilize the hem edge. (Remember the ripply original hem on my white linen skirt? This is how to avoid that.)

Stay-stitching: This is simply a line of stitching, usually worked inside the seam allowance, that’s not meant to be seen; its function is to stabilize, and sometimes to reinforce certain areas, such as the V of a v-neck, or a curving edge that needs to be clipped to lie flat.

Step 1: Stay-stitch 1/4″ from cut edge, fold to wrong side and press,  just inside stitching line.

Tip: be careful to use a stitch length that’s a little on the long side (I used a stitch length of 3); this will help prevent puckering.

Narrow hem, stitched, folded, & pressed Narrow hem, stitched 1/4″ from cut edge, folded to wrong side just inside stitching line, & pressed (in that order). Continue reading


Hem My Skirt, Part 2: Happily Hemmed In!

It’s interesting how projects evolve. In Hem My Skirt, Part 1,  my main objective was to cut off the stained lower edge of my white linen skirt, to at least make it wearable (albeit 6.5″ shorter). The challenge was to mark and cut the skirt to its new length— said skirt being bias-cut, with a curving, A-line-verging-on-semi-circular hem. End of Part 1 found us with a newly-trimmed skirt, hanging for a couple of days before hemming (a necessity when working with bias-cut garments).

However, once I started working on preparing the trimmed-and-hung skirt for the sewing of the new hem, I realized that, along with getting rid of the stained part of the old hem, I could also improve on the finishing of the machine-stitched hem. Here’s how it looked originally, folded under twice, then sewn:

Skirt with original hem Skirt with original hem, turned under twice before machine-stitching; note the ripply edge, not a good finish for a bias-cut skirt, in my opinion. We can improve on this. Continue reading

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Hem My Skirt, Part 1: A Short (& Biased) Story

I have a white skirt dilemma, and it’s almost Labor Day— I think it now qualifies as an emergency! If I don’t fix this skirt now, I’ll have to bow to the Goddess of Fashion Rules and pack it up until next Memorial Day.

Here’s what’s going on. Last week, when temperatures here in Portland were hovering around 100, I finally fished my one and only white linen skirt out of the ironing pile. (My working theory was that just wearing white linen would give me the psychological advantage over the weather forecast. The jury’s still out.) Well, when I was about to start ironing the skirt, I started to notice a series of strange stains, all more or less near the hemline; strange because they all felt sort of hard, as if wax or something like that had fallen on the skirt and stiffened up. (Don’t ask me how this happened. I’m still scratching my head. I’m thinking these are some of those phantom things that happen in the laundry, much to my mystification.) It’s a little hard to see the stain in this photo,  since it’s more hard than dark, but you can just make it out:

Stain on White Skirt

One of several mysterious stains on my white linen skirt. No amount of soaking or treating seemed to make any difference.

I found stains like this one in several places, but they were all within 5 inches or so of the hem. Now, this skirt is bias-cut, A-line, and (originally) 30″ long from waistband to hem, which translates to mid-calf length on me (I’m over 5’8″ tall). So I thought it might be possible to simply re-hem the skirt to a shorter length, cutting off the offending stain-ridden area. Aha, I thought, I can get rid of the stains and make my skirt a more modern (and flattering) length simultaneously! Brilliant!

Of course, these brilliant ideas often don’t take certain issues into account. As I said, the skirt is bias-cut; this doesn’t necessarily make it more difficult to cut, but the stitching of the new hem will be a little more involved. So for today, I’ll show you how I measured and cut the skirt to its new length, and I’ll cover the finishing (including sewing) in my next post.

What you’ll need:

Something to mark your new hemline before cutting;

sharp shears;

tape measure or ruler;

sewing machine or hand-sewing needle

Okay! First, I’m going to lay my skirt out as smoothly as possible, lining up the front and back hemline edges. (Because I usually photograph things on a white backdrop, I’ve removed the background here so you can see the skirt a bit better.)

Skirt laid flat for cutting My skirt laid flat for cutting. Notice the curve of the hemline. Continue reading

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Zip It, The Epilogue: Non-DIY Zipper Pulls!

Here’s a great place for hand-made zipper pulls: Lubun Bay Jewelry on Etsy!

Lubun Bay zipper pulls/stitch markers

Gwen’s zipper pulls and stitch markers, in her Etsy shop, Lubun Bay Jewelry!

In addition to zipper pulls (for just $2.50!!), Gwen makes beautiful jewelry, and stitch markers for knitting and crochet. And she can make your zipper pull in the color of your choice! Go and visit her on Etsy!

(And if you’d like to try your hand at making your own zipper pulls, check out my super-new tutorial!)


Zip It, The Finale: 5 Easy Steps to a DIY Zipper Pull!

In the short amount of time I spent getting ready this morning for my great DIY zipper pull experiment, I learned several things:

1. I have relatively few clothes with zippers.

2. The ones with zippers are almost all invisible zippers. (This is probably due to my preference when making clothes— I find invisible zippers the easiest to install.)

3. The pulls on invisible zippers vary considerably from those of regular zippers.

Why are these facts important? Well, if you look at the following 2 photos,  you’ll see that the available places where you can connect a new zipper pull are quite different:

Regular zipper

Example of a regular zipper. Note the nice, big, obvious hole in the zipper pull.

Invisible zipper Example of invisible zipper. Unlike the regular zipper, the pull on this one doesn’t have a hole; the new zipper pull will have to attach to the horseshoe-shaped piece above the pull shown here. Continue reading

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Zip It, Part Deux: DIY Pull?

This is the first part of my follow-up on yesterday’s post on fixing a broken/missing zipper pull (Zip It: The Lost-Pull Fix). The next part will include full instructions for making a zipper pull (hurrah!).

When I needed pliers to open my replacement zipper pull, I grabbed the first ones I could lay my hands on, which happened to be in my jewelry-making supply box. They were right next to a package of lobster-claw clasps, and even though I was in a hurry to get that blog post going, it did occur to me at the time to wonder if those clasps would fit on an ordinary zipper pull. Hmm…

This morning, I took a closer look at my jewelry materials. Here’s the result of a quick rummage through my supplies:

Possible make-your-own-zipper-pull materials, clockwise starting with the package of lobster-claw clasps: a fancier brass lobster-claw clasp, a jeweled pendant, faux peridot pendant, faux sapphire pendant, and an old necklace with a pendant that could be repurposed as a zipper-pull ornament.

Zippers are such utilitarian things, why not dress them up a bit? (For all we know, they suffer from a perpetual sense of inferiority, considering the beautiful buttons, frogs, laces, and other closure types that compete with zippers. A lot of zippers are actually invisible! Honestly… how would you feel?)

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Zip it: The Lost-Pull Fix

I just found this cute cotton skirt at my favorite thrift store (Value Village), complete with bohemian print and sequin embellishment, for which I paid the princely sum of $2.50.

Embellished print skirt

Embellished print skirt, found at my favorite thrift store, Value Village.

My general belief is that clothes are given to thrift stores for a reason, whether it’s a fit issue, a stain that won’t come out, or maybe that Bridget Jones-inspired reindeer pullover was a gift you just can’t bring yourself to wear. From what I’ve seen, the most common reason we give clothing away is because there’s something wrong with it that we don’t know how to fix. In this case, my summery little skirt was missing its zipper pull.

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Pillow Talk: Adding a Fab Ruffled Trim!

All right, I know it’s a pillow, not a garment, but after this brief digression, I promise I will show you how to apply this technique to clothing items too, including ready-to-wear fabric clothes, not just knits!

It all started with this pillow, hand-knitted (by me) with Knittique’s Scraplet Skeins. (Click here to go to Knittique’s Etsy shop; the link will go straight to the color shown here. The Entrelac Pillow pattern is also available in this shop.)

Fade to Black Pillow front

The front of the Fade to Black Entrelac Pillow, looking fine, but somehow not quite all there. So to speak.

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Is it just me, or is it my clothes?

I’ve been reflecting on the notion of clothes making us look fat. And it’s my conclusion that, when we see “flaws” in the mirror, it’s a lot more likely to be an issue of poorly-fitting clothes than anything else. Think about it: it’s only when garments are too small, for example in the waist, that our bodies appear to be distorted. But that’s because of the garments, not our bodies!

I’m a big fan of the TLC show What Not To Wear, for a number of reasons. First, it’s not just a makeover in the sense that Stacy and Clinton simply swoop in and re-outfit the makeover-ee (is that a word?); lessons that frequently amount to more than just sartorial therapy are taught so that the contributor (as they’re referred to on the show) goes home with much more than a new wardrobe— they depart with more confidence, better shopping skills, and a positive view of themselves. Continue reading