Back for another year, it’s now time for the “Alter It August” challenge again, as hosted by Mia at Sew North! I love this challenge. For this year, I am tackling my ‘no-longer-worn/no-longer-fits’ pile with gumption because of it! This effort is so handy to eliminate useless items taking up room to transform them into things I will enjoy and wear. So much of my time has been spent around the house thus every little bit of useful cleaning that can be achieved is a blessing…especially when I end of with an amazing new garment out of it. It is a real treat nowadays to have such a source for my sanity-saving sewing escapades when I am not going out for supplies and many of those are already short in stock.
Each refashion I make is so exhilarating, from the crazy planning stage to the ‘what is this finally gonna look like’ finished point of having a try-on. This one might be one of my most experimental and the one that cheers me the most every time, and it’s not just on account of the crazy fun idea of it! You see, the best part is the way this project saved two tops that had fond memories attached to them. Both items were worn to one of the many times I spent quality time with a long-time dear friend of mine – almost like family – who has since passed away during the heart of the lockdown.
Nostalgia is a weird thing when it is ascribed to a garment – and slightly risky under the possibility that clothing may not always fit. So – at its core, it seems this project was fueled a crazy creativity borne of a desire to hold onto the little bit of tangible memories left that I have of people I loved and miss. Now, I know that a physical item is never as important as the person that item signifies. Yet, for me to have lost this special friend during this pandemic has given me no closure…as there has been no funeral or sharing of sympathy with the family…and presents given, photos, and garments worn during our times out are all I have left besides memories in my head. So, it may not be my best altered item, but this project has the finest reason yet behind any of my refashion projects.
FABRIC: two cotton knit tops, bought as RTW items about 15 years back from now
NOTIONS: just lots of thread
TIME TO COMPLETE: This refashion was completed in a couple of hours on the afternoon of April 1, 2020 (the heat of the sewing shortages and lockdowns)
THE INSIDES: tightly zig-zagged – a home seamstress’ way to mimic commercially serged edges
TOTAL COST: none!
I was not too surprised or disappointed these two tops no longer fit me, even with the sentimentalism over them. The polka dotted one was a girl’s size (14 – 16). Although I do still fit in many of my clothing from back then, unfortunately I had serged (overlocked) in the inner side seams of the top to make it fit closer as a teen. There is no forgiveness in the knit which can completely make up for that! The other turquoise top was an extra small petite, which was the only other size I could fit into as a teen if I didn’t want the overly casual and trendy fashions solely offered to such an age group. I still absolutely love that neckline made of inter-woven strips of self-fabric. My taste for garment details in RTW that would be challenging to make yourself apparently started when I was young!
First off, I decided which top would be the base to receive accents from cutting up the other top. As the turquoise top had the amazing neckline I wanted to save, and as it was a solid color which could benefit from a splash of a different fabric, that was the main base for me to work with. Next, I figured where the turquoise top was too small, and if there was a way to both add in extra fabric from the polka dotted top to make it larger as well as have such additions appear as aesthetically intentional. The turquoise top was too small all over, but basically would fit in the shoulders and body if I increased the width on either side of the neckline (which was fine as-is). The existing sleeves were ¾ length and only too small around my elbows, so shortening the length was all I needed to do so as to use them without a major reworking.
The polka dotted top was really tiny so I didn’t have much fabric to work with in the first place. This had to be taken into account when figuring out what kind of refashion to plan for. As it turned out, all I needed to do was cut this top into lots of skinny rectangular strips. The “faux suspenders” were four complete around-the-body strips from off of the polka dotted top and were just what I needed to give the turquoise top enough width for it to fit my current body. I had to really do some figuring for them – estimating how much more room I need, then dividing that out between the strips of fabric, plus adding in seam allowances, all the while knowing one mistake could mean the end of my idea because of my limited resources. To make the “suspenders” seem more intentional than random, and also visually widen the shoulders, I added pinafore-style shoulder ruffles. Boy, did this refashion have the toughest seams to sew, though!
Keep in mind I made this top at the very beginning in April. It was at the end of that same month that pinafores were suddenly all the rage amongst vintage enthusiasts and Instagram influencers alike. It was all I saw just a few weeks later on social media. There were even a few new indie pattern releases (see the Sewaholic “Pendrell” blouse or Gertie’s design) and sewists offering pattern hacks, all of them being pinafore inspired. Looking back, it seems maybe I was ahead of the trend. Now the fads seem to have moved on to “Nap dresses” (okay, but really?) and “Cottage Core” aesthetic (…don’t get me started about that, ugh). Either way, everyone seems all in for the combo of both comfy and cute, of course, with lockdown trends having the ever so slightest nod to old-timey house wear. This top certainly embodies all of that before it was “a thing”! I guess I had a better idea than I realized.
Little construction details really add to helping this refashion not seem completely thrown together. I cut the shoulder ruffles doubled up, mirror image, back-to-back – meaning the outer edge of each shoulder ruffle is a fold and the good side of the fabric can be seen on the underside as well. I also ironed in a lightweight interfacing to the inside of the ruffle pieces before gathering them and sewing them in the top. I was working with a knit after all, and I felt droopy ruffles would not give this refashion the look it needed!
Also, to better unify the contrast fabric in with the rest of the top, I made an oversized bow to accent the neckline. I had barely enough scraps leftover for it but at least I used up every bit I could! The bow was really hubby’s idea, but I thought of having it be removable. The bow is in place using an oversized safety pin. I don’t trust it to keep its perky, structured shape going through the wash machine, even though I interfaced the bow strips before sewing and hand stitched the whole thing in place so it stays looking perfect. By keeping it removable, I can use this bow as an accessory for any other outfit…or even in my hair! I love versatility with what I make.
For “Alter It August” 2020, Mia at “Sew North” is taking the challenge meaning to also encompass actions and efforts in her life outside of the realm of just sewing. Thus, picking up on a personal interpretation to that, maybe this refashion of mine – in honor of my friend that passed away – can be a little reminder to change up something else in your life and strengthen your connections with people. In times that stress the importance of distance and separation, it is more imperative to not lose your bonds with those you know or love. Let us actively work on not allowing connections with others to erode because of the state our world is in today. If you’re thinking about someone, call them or write a letter. Don’t put it off. Let them know you miss them and have them in your thoughts, or even just simply share something that got you through your day. Life is tough for many, right now, so if your outreach efforts echo back silence, that’s okay. Truly caring for others is never wasted, it’s also caring for yourself, too. It’s important to be kind and understanding. Do not take them for granted, or put off an opportunity to stay connected. You – and they – might not realize how much hearing from one another is just what is needed!