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Entries in Make better (7)


On the mend

Still catching up on all of the things I've been making and fixing!

Shrinking that Doctor tshirt left me with a number of offcuts of the sludge green tshirt material. Not my favourite colour, if I'm honest, but as it happened I have a merino top that had a hole in it. We think that the place we rented before our new house was built had moths. Certainly a lot of my merino clothing ended up with holes in some pretty strange places, and this was no exception. When I discovered it, I threw it in a bag in the freezer and fully intended to just throw it out. It's not one of my best tops, and I'd had it a while anyway. 

Then somehow it ended up in the bag of clothes that I was going to donate when I ran the half at Blenheim, and I ended up rescuing it to run in. I'd just started seeing posts about Alabama Chanin, and embroidery combining with tshirt material for mending, and I realised that the tshirt offcuts would actually be a pretty good match for my poor holey shirt. 


I happened to have the brown embroidery thread already. The hole is hidden under one of the petals, but nobody has ever spotted it or questioned it. I did start out with only two petals, but Clarkie told me it looked a bit like the Playboy bunny ears! 

So the leftover pieces of cotton have rescued a large piece of merino, and the top has gone straight back into circulation. It's not a smart top, but it's become one of my go-to after work or weekend tops. Winning! 


Still improving

My 'make it better' challenge was in theory just for 2014, but actually it's been more of an on-going mind-set. I've also got a little bit of a bee in my bonnet about throw-away tshirts. The amount of effort and energy (human and fossil fuel) that goes into a cotton tshirt is considerable, from growing the cotton, to making the fibre, to knitting the cloth, to producing the tshirt, and shipping the entire thing here there and everywhere. 

One of the presents I got for finishing my PhD was this disney tshirt.

Doctored tshirt

That's it after I went and resized it. It was originally a small 'unisex' tshirt. I don't like wearing those big, shapeless tshirts. I always feel that I look like a 12-year-old boy in them, and if I don't feel good in it I'm not going to wear it. Normally I just get rid of them, but with this one I wanted to keep it for sentimental reasons. I figured I could always turn it into a pillow or something if I screwed up the resizing, so I found a tutorial for effectively copying a different tshirt for size. 

I didn't entirely get it right. I foolishly decided that I could use one side of the tshirt I was copying and mirror it, rather than copying the two sides, and the result seems to have left the tshirt a little lop-sided. It's not really noticeable though, and the tshirt is so much more me now. Much better!


Kind of a kit?

My list of things to buy in Florida this time was quite precise. And I pretty much stuck to it too, which makes a nice change! One of the things on the list was a pair of denim shorts - y'know, go anywhere, everyday shorts. Sounds pretty simple, right? There are many, many pairs of denim shorts available to buy in Orlando. 

The small catch is that I am 160cm and have a current fighting weight of around 49kg (5' 3" and around 108lbs or 7st 10lbs in old money). This is not a size that appears to be that common for adult women in Orlando. I may have found an entire floor of Macy's that had precisely nothing in my size. So a lot of the time this reduces me to looking for stuff in the more teenaged end of the market. Teenagers appear to like denim shorts, but (as I did when I was a teenager) they like them with holes in. 

The thing is, now that I'm 37 I prefer my clothes to cover me. Pretty much, anyway. And I've worn enough holey jeans to know that those white threads they leave are really fragile, and get really matted when you wash them. But I've been wanting to try sashiko - a Japanese stitching technique that started out as a way to patch denim - for ages, and the pair of jeans I've been waiting to disintegrate are really a bit too big. So this suddenly seemed like the perfect opportunity. I ended up with a cheap pair of holey jeans from Target, where the holes appear to have been carefully rubbed only on the front and the rest of the denim is really sound.

New (holey) shorts

(It helped that my lovely assistant said they fit pretty well.)

I have no idea why anyone would want to have a hole over the bottom of the pocket. I don't get why those super short cut offs leave the bottom of the pockets sticking out either. I am clearly not down with the kids. 

Much fun marking out and stitching later, I have ended up with something I'm pretty pleased with.

Sashiko mending

I mean, clearly it's not perfectly even. And I ran out of the dark blue thread before I'd quite finished on that big hole on top of the right leg. But I've already worn these quite a lot for gardening, they have survived washing with no noticeable harm, and my pocket is no longer hanging out. I reckon that's a pretty good win!

(More detailed pics of the stitching here.)


In the kingdom of the blind

Whoops, bit of a lull again. Things are afoot, but I need to keep them under my hat for a little while longer, so instead I just look a bit rubbish. Such is life. 

First things first, I did finish Clarkie's top. Just rather later than the Monday. Somehow when the deadline was already past it felt like the pressure was off. Still, it fits rather well, and I think we are both quite pleased with it. 

CBJ 14

She has even asked for another, so it's a good job that I wrote down full and detailed instructions for this one! No, for once I really did. She can have as many of these as she likes. 

Today I have had a sewing epiphany. I mentioned recently that I am short, and have to shorten all my trousers. Well, today I had a pair to do that I wasn't looking forward to. One of those smarter types, with the hidden hem thing going on. The kind of hem that I've always done by hand because I didn't know how to do them on the machine which is tedious and I've never been really happy with the finished result. But needs must, so I sat myself down to the task today when suddenly it occurred to me that there had to be a better way. So I googled. 

I discovered that that kind of hem is called a 'blind hem'. I discovered that you can do those on the machine, if you have a 'blind hem foot'. I found a tutorial that made it sound easy. And best of all I discovered that included in the many random sewing machine feet that I haven't worked out what to do with that came with my sewing machine is a blind hem foot. 

Blind hem foot

I need fear those hems no more. I have conquered them. This has been a very good day. 

I can't help wonder why (given that I've always been short) my home economics teacher didn't see fit to teach me this. I'm giving Mum the benefit of the doubt and assuming that this is news to her too. Seriously, if you are also short, or have trousers to turn up for someone else, have a read of that link. 

Makes me wonder what the other random feet do...


Denim TLC

Around here, pretty much every time we buy a new pair of trousers they need shortening. I get a bit lazy about that, particuarly with jeans - historically I've always just trodden away the backs until they fall off. Takes maybe two or three years, looks really untidy, means you get really soggy trousers on wet days, but hey, it was easier than getting out the sewing machine and turning them up, right?

I guess I must be getting old or something, because that just doesn't make as much sense any more. But my latest pair of jeans (two years old now) were only a little bit too long. Close enough that I thought I could just get away with flicking over the hem, and leave it at that. But I noticed that I've started to tread through the back again, and really, as part of this whole "make it better" thing, I need to fix that to keep the jeans going for longer. The problem with fixing something that is already at the right length (well, has a hole already at the right length) is that you have no material to turn over for a new hem.

I started by cutting the jeans along the fold that was already there. Then I cut a strip of some spare lightweight denim I have hanging around - about an inch deep, slightly longer than the circumference of the jeans - and stitched that to the front side of the jeans. I then flipped that inside out. That encases the raw edges of both the new piece of material and the jeans, and gives an edge that looks like this:


I then stitched the two pieces together a couple of times, to make the join good and strong. (I've also stitched over the raw edge of the extra strip to limit fraying. You could also fold this under and catch it in the rounds of sewing.) Around the back where it had already started wearing away I've tried to stabilise that with a bit of zigzag stitch. 


It isn't perfect. There are a couple of places where I've joined the two pieces of fabric too close to the edge and haven't caught the raw edges properly. But it's an awful lot better than it was. Now my jeans look all neat, and I'm surprising myself with how much I like it. 


No, I didn't knit those socks. Actually, at the moment I'm knitting as fast as my spare time allows on Clarkie's birthday present. Clarkie's birthday (and actually any date, but this one is important) always sneaks up on me. We've worked out this might be at least partially because I never actually know what the current date is, but it's a little embarassing. Her birthday is this coming Friday, and her present currently looks like this:

Knitting in progress

I think I might be in trouble...