HAVE A FAVOURITE DRESS, SKIRT OR JACKET THAT HAS SEEN BETTER DAYS? CREATE SOMETHING NEW WITH A LITTLE IMAGINATIVE THINKING.
I recently came across a tweet from a man who’s 7-year-old niece likes to play a pretend game called ‘Support Group’. He explains in the tweet that the game entails his niece asking everyone what they don’t like in life, say ‘Barney’ for instance, and the niece replies with ‘We’re here for you’. It made me chuckle like mad, not because it’s funny and a little weird, but because it conjured up memories of the funny games I used to play as a kid. There were the obligatory games, that of ‘House’ and ‘Cooking Programme’, the latter involving a selection of peanuts, raisins and m&ms in very small separate bowls. I would throw these ingredients together whilst talking to my ‘viewers at home’. Adjusting my small Fireman Sam apron, I would point at the lamp and, as if it was a camera, say ‘and that, my friends, is how you make granola. Thanks for watching! See you next week.’ Another game I enjoyed was ‘Seamstress’. I may have called it ‘Quilt Shop’, I’ll have to ask my mother about that one, but I remember exactly how the plot went. I would have been about 7 at the time and what 7-year-old doesn’t love any opportunity to turn a boring task into a world of make-believe? Back then my mother had a sewing room in the basement of our house. It was a spare bedroom with yellow walls, a forest green lamp and huge plastic tubs of material and unwanted clothes that were being saved in order to turn into something else one day. On the day I’m recalling, my mother was making a quilt – for my dolly, if I recall correctly. I remember loving the idea that the sewing room could be a pretend quilt shop and that we were making this quilt on commission. At one point I opened the sliding door just a crack, peered out into the hallway and very brazenly said into the empty air, ‘I’m sorry sir, we’re busy today, you’ll have to come back tomorrow.’ The memory has stuck with me as a) a perfect example of the phrase ‘kids do the darndest things’ and b) because it is the first memory of sewing with my mum that I have; a hobby that has been a constant throughout my life (the sewing part, not the quilt shop part). There was the time we made a skirt from a strange stretchy loop of material we found lurking in one of the plastic boxes, the hat my mother stitched together out of a lampshade and various bits of tulle, dolls dresses and cardigans and a set of cloud pyjamas. All of which nurtured my love of turning one thing into something else; seeing a manky pair if Levi’s and making a small handbag from the back pocket; saving the material from a favourite coat to turn into a cushion or piece of a patchwork quilt. This mentality has stuck with me and I am unashamed to say that now I have my own boxes of materials and bits of ribbon that may one day be used for something new. I am constantly on the look out for old dresses made of beautiful materials or cardigans that could become something new and trendy (more on this idea in a later post). This week I came across a pair of large pyjama bottoms in a charity shop. What attracted me to them was the quality of the material and the gorgeous vintage-inspired print that made me instantly think I could make something, perhaps several things, out of them. Taking a second look at home, I realised that instead of cutting them all up completely, I could possibly rework the pyjamas into a little pair of shorts with just a bit of creative thinking.
So here goes… The waist of the original pyjamas is 38 inches, so I’ll be chopping and changing to create a waist that’s around 32 inches. This will be able to be drawn tighter with the original pink drawstring. First, I need to remove the drawstring, saving it for later. These are usually stitched in somehow so that they don’t wiggle out accidentally, so here, I’m going to pick apart the small line of stitches that holds the drawstring in place at the back of the pyjamas. As it turns out, there were only about 2 tiny stitches holding this pink drawstring in, so it pulls out really easily. The elastic is also something I need to harvest. To remove this surreptitiously I am going to extract the elastic band from a slit I make in the side seam of the trousers. This way, however I end up making the new waistband, I’ll be able to use the original elastic and won’t cause any issues when I go to sew up the new seams. Scratch that. The elastic is sewn in place and would be impossible to remove without causing rips and holes and frustration. So instead, we’ll do this a much simpler way. Instead of beginning with the waistband, I’m starting with the inseam. Because there is some excess material in the in the crotch of these trousers, I’ll begin by shaping this area first, removing some of the extra material and shaping the more challenging seams.
Here, I’ll be making the crotch approximately two inches shorter. Don’t forget to pin this when it is on your person, as a common mistake is to cut the material without taking into account the extra material a bottom takes up! Mark this measurement with pins from the inside of the trousers and follow that measure down the entire length of the leg. This will mark where the new inseam will go and will indicate the width of the new leg.
The next thing I really need to do here is to get rid of the excess material – particularly the long legs – so it’s easier to work with the piece. Once you have pins or some new seams in place, measure the length you’re after for the shorts and cut away the excess material. This will give you a more refined piece of work that will be easier to manipulate with your sewing machine.
For my shorts, I’m cutting them longer than I would like them to be in their final state, mainly because I’d like to add in a few twiddly bits around the edges and I don’t want to cut away too much material at this point. This is the first time I have worked in the HLH studio with a piece of material this large. Usually I’m making accessories for tiny dogs! And so I am finding it a challenge to find space to photograph the process of this project. At this point, I’ve made the legs far too long – unless I fancy going to bed in Bermuda shorts! Before cutting off more of the leg, I’m going to trim up the waistband.
Because the elastic is in good shape, there really isn’t any need to replace it in this project. The shorts will do just fine once the pink cord is running through the band again. So the next step will be to pin up the waste band and sides of the legs to ensure a perfect fit is made. Remember, measure twice, cut once!
Now that the leg is the right circumference and the waistband is the right size (give or take a tug on a drawstring), you can now mark the shape of the leg hole. Here I’ve decided to go for a slight slanted shape, much like the shape in running shorts. This will also allow me to add in some detailing with a contrasting colour. Once trimmed to the right shape, these edges will need hemming. This can be a little bit tricky, as you want to make sure the seam will look smooth and straight on the outside. So be extra persnickety when measuring and pinning at this stage.
Once the legs seams are complete we can add in some contrasting details. For these, I’ve dug out a small scrap of pink Liberty floral, which will beautifully contrast the vintage blue material of the shorts and tie in nicely to the bright pink waist cord.
For this detailing, I’ve decided to emphasise the side seams with a wrap around triangle of material, similar to the detailing you might find on the side seam of a men’s shirt. Because these are a little bit fiddly, I’ve chosen to hand sew these pieces in place in order to have more control over their positioning and the end result. Reattached the cord by threading it through the waistband and placing a few stitches to hold it place either side. And there you go! One pair of sleep shorts from a pair of baggy pyjama bottoms. Happy sewing! xx