May 21, 2012

make and mend

Last week I discovered, and then became slightly obsessed with the blog Fashion on a Ration. Britain during World War Two is a sort of an interest of mine, particularly what the women of Britain were up to during those years. If you looked at the basket of books beside my bed, you might think I read only WAAF diaries and stories about the blitz. My grandmother, who was an endlessly fascinating woman and who passed away when I was a baby, was both a WAAF and a Londoner during the blitz and that's a big part of where the interest stems from, but in general, I'm absolutely fascinated by the era, the bravery and the way life carried on. So Fashion on a Ration, which tracked a year in the life of a London girl who decided to follow the clothing rationing system from the war, sewing and mending her way through the year, is right up my ally. It's got sewing, it's got history, it's got heaps of random bits of information that I fine interesting. (For example, did you know that the government had laws about how many buttons different kinds of garments could have? Can you imagine that now?)
I read her entire year's worth of entries over the course of a few days and it's given me the sewing bug again. Actually reading the blog combined with one and a half spectacular knitting fails (more later) and finishing the hem of my dress in the nick of time for graduation all combined to put me on a little bit of a sewing high. One of the things that I found most interesting was a pamphlet that she scanned that was put out by the US government about reusing clothing. It's full of all sorts of ideas for altering the look of dresses, whipping up little details that can be added to old clothes for interest and using disassembled men's suits and shirts for the fabric for women's pieces. I love that idea. But since Will doesn't have any spare suits hanging around, I decided a trip to the giant Salvation Army in Midtown was in order.
This isn't about making over a suit, however. That will come, but it's a big project that requires a) time, b) an appropriate suit and c) an appropriate pattern, none of which I have at the moment. I did pick up a pair of lightweight wool slacks from the men's rack to try the idea out on when I find a good pattern. But in the spirit of the make do and mend idea, and because I found a skirt that was too small and too full but too cute to pass up, I took a stab at making over something and I'm hooked.
This skirt was just the project I needed. Quick - I finished the whole thing while watching Millions Like Us (what can I say, I'm obsessed) and successful - which after my knitting fails I really needed, it made me almost giddy to see it come together.
Because the skirt was one big loop, I didn't need to re-hem or sew up any seams, except for the spot that I ripped while pulling off the waistband. Woops.

With no pockets and just a simple placket where the waistband buttoned, all I needed to do was take out some of the fullness so that the waist was bigger. It sounds more complicated than it was, I promise. 

The secret here was the pleats. There were LOTS of pleats in the original skirt. The fabric was stitched down the length of the skirt to form small folds, then pleated forwards and backwards. I took out the forwards and backwards pleats but left the stitched down the length ones and the size 0 skirt ended up being more than 100 inches around. That's a lot of skirt. To bring it back down to my size I pinned larger, single pleats all around. This took me two tries, the first time it was still way too big, the second it was still slightly big, but adjusting the waistband made it work.
For the new waistband I used red grosgrain ribbon which, I think, looks better than the original. Much more interesting to have that punch or red there, right?

Yesterday we bummed around the park most of the day and it was the perfect light weight, easy to wear skirt. Just what I needed. And now it's got me all excited to make over some more things. There was an interesting pair of seersucker mens pants on the rack that would make some cute pedal pushers. Wonder if they are still there...

What do you think? What's the best kind of thing to alter? Anyone ever make a woman's suit out of a man's? Tips?