This year I have decided that I won’t buy my daughter any winter clothes. Not through any desire to give her hypothermia but just through a hatred of all the clothes out there in the high-street, particularly for girls (because that’s what I have and so that’s what I look for). The jumpers are short, they’re thin, they’re covered in sequins. The trousers are tight, pastel coloured and asking for grass stains and that’s if the trousers aren’t, in fact, skirts. The t-shirts have short cuff sleeves, they’re a slimmer fit than boy’s ones and they’re probably pink. Let’s be honest, it’s all pink and if it isn’t then it has pink piping.
I want her jumpers to be warm.
I want her trousers to be practical.
I want her t-shirts to be long-sleeved.
She wants it all to be colourful.
That’s really all we’re interested in.
I am also conscious that fabric is expensive, so if I’m going to make them all myself, I’ll probably end up bankrupt.
- “Sew your own clothes”, they said. “You’ll save so much money”, they said. Then they fell into fits of hysterics as I showed them my battered credit card.
So, I decided to have a trawl of the charity shops in town and see what i could come up with. I wasn’t looking for children’s clothes, I wasn’t looking for fabric, I was looking for adult’s clothes that I could use as fabric to make her winter clothes from.
That’s the key if you want to have a go at doing this yourself. Ignore what it is and just look at what it’s made from.
Stretch jersey t-shirts make great tees, dresses and knickers. Cord and tweed jackets can be cut up to make smaller coats and trousers. Thick fleeces can be made into hoodies and warm harem pants, or pyjamas.
The acreage is also important. Bigger sizes give more fabric which in turn means you can make more, however saying that I got two t shirts out of a woman’s size 8 long sleeved tee and a bit of fabric from my own stash.
Look for good quality fabrics with not too much wear or bobbling, but basically whatever you get can be useable. Don’t forget your own wardrobe, too. I had a t-shirt languishing in my ‘to be fixed’ basket, which I had bought about a year ago and then on my first wear had ripped across the back due to an invisible fault in the fabric grain. It is a nice navy and white stripe, and it will look super chopped up into a little tee for her to wear.
It’s a pretty simple process to make something out of something else. The first thing you’ll need to do it work out what you want to make, and get a pattern. You can either follow a printed pattern or make one yourself from a t-shirt/dress/trousers your child already owns. I’ll pop up some instructions on how to do that one day, but in the mean time you’ll be able to find your own instructions on how to do it with a simple google search.
Then just use your chopped up bits as you would normal fabric. Place your pattern pieces on top and cut them out. I try and re-use the hems and cuffs if possible, it just makes life so much easier. Line your pattern up at the bottom rather than from the top, easy peasy.
Assemble as per the pattern instructions.
For the cheetah dress I was following a nice Raglan T-shirt pattern from Duck Butt Designs. I lengthened the pattern by about 15 centimetres, and curved in about 2cm from each side at the bottom to create the bubble shape.
Then just pop it together as you normally would, following your pattern. With this cheetah raglan dress the arms and front and back all get sewn together, then you sew down each arm, from cuff to underarm and down the the waistband. I have an overlocker which I used but you can also use a regular sewing machine with a zig zag or stretch stitch for knits. then I took the existing neck band, measured it to 80% of the neck opening, added 2.5cm seam allowance and sewed it back together, then sewed it on. No hemming required as I used the pre-existing hems and waistband from the original tee.
The whole garment took about 25 minutes from start to finish, and fit like a dream.
I will soon start as one of the sewing teachers at my lovely local haberdashery, Crafty Baba, and I hope to be able to teach some classes on upcycling, so if you would like to learn from me in person, hopefully you will soon be able to.
Give it a go! This made-to-measure, deeply funky, unisex cheetah bubble dress took less than half an hour and cost me £2.49. What’s not to love?
There’ll be plenty more to follow in the coming days.