My handmade wardrobe – problem solving!

Well here it is…. the first month of freedom, no rules. Free to buy clothes. I completed my challenge. So January 1st I polished my credit card, popped on my most comfortable shoes and set off for a day at the sales to stock up on a whole new wardrobe of clothes and just went spend crazy!…………

Well I did wonder on January 1st 2014 if this would be the scene but actually the truth is I have not bought a single item of clothing, not even a glance at the sales, not even tempted to just look! Nothing not even a teeny weeny purchase!

This month actually turned out to be a problem solving month, just by coincidence everything I made this month was sorting out one issue or another. The first problem was ribbed vest tops. My wardrobe stable forever.  I was thinking I could do with a couple of new ones and that I would buy ready made. However when I started thinking about it. I have a number from Top shop which are cheap and cheerful colours, but never my perfect fit, always cut a bit short for my liking. Then I have some posh ones from Abercrombie and Fitch which I paid way to much money for but have lasted well and are cut longer. I always wear them under sweaters and tops so the fact that they are to low cut for me didn’t bother me to much, But then I thought about it and why should I buy an ill fitting vest top. I can make one or two or three.

Colours are the problems, I knew I could develop the perfect fit and once perfected I can just make a new one in about 15 minutes. When working with jersey and creating the perfect fit you really need to stick to exactly the same compostion and fabric type or you run the risk of the fit changing. Then a happy brainstorm…having tried dying my first garment after being inspired by the super creative Cherry from Merriman’s vintage jamboree. I thought I can dye plain white ones. So here goes.



The shape needs some slight adaption, I have reworked my pattern and I bought some 100% cotton thread from the fabulous treasure trove of sewing goodies Sewing-online. Using this thread will mean the thread takes the dye as well as the fabric. I will make another one first to check the fit  and then I will dye it. You can see how I get on in next months post.



I have been on a mission to actually finish projects rather than being interrupted by a new and exciting project that just has to happen now, now, now! So I dug out my re-cut wrap back dress. It was sometime in the the summer last year that I made my first version, which was ok but suffered from bum exposure, due to the wrap being to shallow. This version definitely has no bum exposure ! it has a much deeper wrap so can be worn as a dress quite comfortably and in confidence.


My bum exposure dress was not a complete disaster, I made a simple dress with a pretty hem to wear underneath and that worked nicely. The first one I made was white. This was OK for the summer but not so good now. I found this navy embroidered border and made another simple dress. Another problem solved.


Then I have the ongoing problem of tops, in this weather I mainly want to hibernate so a big thick jumper is the only way.  The last purchase I made before starting my challenge was a big lovely warm wool slouchy sweater. It was an easy shape to make a pattern for and I found some cheap and cheerful heavyweight jersey in one of my favorite eBay shops, The Textile centre. I am super happy with this, it a sort of cross between a sweatshirt and a sweater.


I decided to give it a bit of a designer finish by adding a deep plain fabric facing at the hem. I think there will be another one of these on the agenda. It’s a perfect stable.

Talking of tops, last month I gave some little cardies a face lift with a change of buttons and elbow patches, then found I didn’t have much to wear with them. These makes conquered two problems.


Simple vest tops, pattern now well used and rustled up in no time. Ideal to wear under little cardies. Problem two…I seem to have lots of one yard pieces of fabric, mostly bought on a whim but just to small to make a top with sleeves.



I made a new version with a higher neck that I can wear with the collar I made last year. Another version that will be so useful and possible to knock up in a short space of time.


Lastly from my days of buying clothes I have a few nice pieces like this Toast shirt. (they do have gorgeous clothes and great sales). This shirt has stayed in the wardrobe for a while. I decided to give it a simple facelift by cropping the sleeves and adding a deep facing.

Next month I am planning to start working on more challenging items. I am going to continue the projects I am developing like the vest tops and start working on something that may take a fair bit longer. The first item is a coat!

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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