Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without!

Do you ever “make over” your clothes? It’s an old-fashioned idea and brings to mind the image of “turning the collars” on men’s shirts. I’m a fairly good dressmaker, so when I make my own clothes, they usually fit me. But everyone has at least some store-bought items. 😉 I am guilty of hanging on to clothes for a long time, even when they don’t fit. I am not talking about losing or gaining weight (well, not entirely), but about “shape.” I am long-waisted, but I do have a waist. Most store-bought clothes have waistlines that hit me 3/4″ – 1″ too high. It’s a bigger deal than you might think. The fullness below the waist – where it flares preparatory for hitting the hips – is over my waist and tummy instead of my hips. It’s not flattering.

Lately, I don’t put up with it. Since I don’t like the way they fit, I don’t wear them. But since they are pretty and they do actually go over my head and I don’t have many clothes, I don’t throw them out. Recently, I restructured two rayon summer dresses. The first one had six rows of shirring in the back. I removed the top two rows of elastic thread and added two at the bottom. VOILA! Instant fit! The other dress had fisheye darts, and I simply turned it inside out and extended the fullest part of the darts downward about 1″ and then lengthened the bottom end of the darts 1″.

I bought a pair of very nice knit pants, and they just didn’t fit at the waist. I realized that they weren’t intended to sit at the natural waist, but I was constantly hitching them up as they slid down my fanny. Since there was room in the crotch length, I opened the back waistband and replaced the elastic with a smaller piece. I also stitched down the bulky faux placket in the flat front and removed the decorative button there, since they always showed (poked out) through the shirt I wore over them. Now the pants fit nicely and look good with a smooth tshirt or sweater. They sit about 1 1/2″ below my natural waistline, and they stay there.

I like bateau necklines, but often they are cut too high. I cut them lower and use a plain rolled hem to finish them. It generally looks just fine. Gaping armholes or those that bind at the arm can be tightened or cut away. Pants can be cut into capris or shorts. Slim the legs or cut a little notch at the bottom side as necessary. Mending and basic alterations in width or length are easy fixes, of course. Holes caused by pulling buttons can be fixed by reinforcing the underside of the placket with a scrap of fabric. Any stitching will be covered by the button. Stretched-out buttonholes can be tightened up with a few whip stitches at one end. Immodest slits in a skirts, or openings at the bottom of a button-front dress, can be sewed up. Pin them carefully if they are rayon or knit, matching the ends at the hem and preventing stretching while you sew.

Patching jeans is easy if you slit the inner leg (or whichever doesn’t have a flat-felled seam) and do your patching on the flat leg. Then restitch the seam. I don’t usually open it all the way down to the hem, since I don’t want to have to redo that. Gray thread usually works best for jeans. Place your patch (a piece of denim from old, cast-off jeans) underneath, pin it in place and stitch it on top. Trim away any frayed threads.

And you know… it’s perfectly legal to remove tags once you own the item. It’s best to pick out the stitches if possible instead of cutting them off.


I’m not really throwing anything away. Stash Reduction Project Part 1

I am making huge progress in my stash reduction process. I have an obscene amount of quilting fabric, but not a lot of yardage but mostly remnants and scraps. And it’s not disorganized; the fabric is already sorted by color or style into Rubbermaid totes, and the totes are neatly labeled on both ends. I have separated all of the dressmaking and other fabrics and store those totes in other parts of the attic, so the “quilting” area of the attic contains only cotton fabric, batting, a few file boxes of quilt class patterns and paperwork, various class supply/visual aid boxes, quilt frames, and other quilt-related stuff tools and supplies. It looks good up there, but those totes are whited sepulchers. They appear nice and clean on the outside, but in reality they are crammed so full of fabric that it’s hard to find and use the pieces I want. It’s a wadded-up mess. Every time I want to do a project, I have to dig through tangles of unusable little pieces and strips, and it’s all so stubbornly wrinkled that I have to wet it down before I can press it smooth. I want my fabric supply to be accessible and usable.

I do have a system, but I have not previously applied it to the entire stash. It’s a big project, and time-consuming, but it works for me. One box at a time, I am sorting through every bit of the fabric. Any pieces smaller than a fat quarter or odd shapes are pressed and cut into 2″ strips. If they are too small for that, I cut them into 1 1/2″ strips. Anything too small for that DOES get thrown away. The remaining fabric pieces get pressed, folded, and put back in their tub. If a larger piece is not square/rectangular, I cut off the odd ends and strip those, replacing the tidied-up larger piece in the tote.

I really do use these strips. OFTEN. It’s a very convenient system for me, because I like scrap quilts. I enjoy rummaging through the ready-to-use strips. The problem is that they multiply. In their nice dark totes, up there in the attic at night, some kind of reproductive process is happening. I currently have two 18-gallon Rubbermaid totes packed full of 2″ strips and one of 1 1/2″ strips, and I need more NOW.

A few months ago, I sewed seven tablerunners and two baby quilts from the 1 1/2″ strip tote without making a noticable dent in the stash. Over the years, I have made innumerable large and small quilts from these boxes, but they never get emptier. Sometimes I get low on one specific color, but sooner or later they reproduce themselves and I once again have enough to make more quilts.

I have dressmaking friends who sometimes send me big boxes of their scraps. When I am organized like this, all of their gift eventually gets used. Efficient organization and storage prevents waste.

Now if only I could apply that concept to my kitchen…