Monday, 18 August 2014

Practical Sewing, Ten ideas to get more out of your clothes

I have been doing a number of sewing jobs this week some of them for other people but all involved existing items. On Friday I had a request from a friend to turn a floor length evening gown into a knee length pencil dress. This request was made and needed for the following day for a wedding, so completed straight away and tried on and picked up later.   Due to the urgency I forgot (or did not have time) for photographs of the before and after which is a shame because I like to show that you don't always need to buy new stuff.
My friend has assured me she would take some so will post these another day, I also had to shorten a maxi dress for my mum, she doesn't usually wear these but saw it for her holiday for £5 and couldn't resist.

Finally I have taken in a couple of my T shirts that were getting a bit loose due to wear, they were still good colours and nothing else wrong with them they had just lost a bit of shape and a little taking in and a press of the seams made them look good again.

Sometimes the sewing I do is not all that exciting but it is necessary, saves money  and often helps out others and sometimes makes me a bit extra too.  I think sometimes we have to go and have a look at our wardrobe with new eyes before going shopping. My friend certainly did not have the funds for a new wedding outfit this week but I think she felt she had one after we altered her existing dress.  Some of your clothes may just need a little bit of adjusting to bring them up to date.

While I do enjoy making something altogether from the start a lot of the time we just don't have enough  fabric to do this do we? Unless you have a fabric addiction and buy it all the time as some other bloggers seem to confess to but I'm trying to save money here also so that is not an option.  I have two large pieces of fabric for projects bought a while ago and will be starting one later but after that it will be cautious purchases only or charity shop finds ( always good for cheap fabric)

So with that said I think sewing comes in very handy for refashioning items we already have, making things fit that may have been passed on or bought in charity shops and generally saving us money while allowing us to have an interest in fashion that is affordable.

I have said before I like to layer tops and dresses in the autumn winter but what about doing that in the summer also with vest tops and T shirts, I know a lot of people don't like to show their arms but don't let that stop you from wearing strappy clothes. A thin top underneath or maybe make small sleeves with fabric you have already or from another item.  I wouldn't worry about making mistakes because if you would never wear the item as is, then what have you got to lose?

The top with the wolf in the above picture shows tummy if worn with low slung jeans as many are now, this bothers me so I wear it with a top underneath in the autumn. You don't need to get rid of items just rethink them.

Ten ideas to get more out of your clothes




  1. Add darts and fit to baggy items to make them more structured.
  2. Shorten Maxi dresses, use the left over fabric to add detail at the top, make tie belt or straps.
  3. Change buttons, sometimes a contrast colour can really change the look.
  4. Experiment with sleeves, take them off, shorten them, add elastic, or in reverse make new ones in a different colour  of fabric and add them to strappy tops or dresses.
  5. Add a layer to a dress or skirt that is too short. This make take some thought but a few inches can sometimes save an item form being discarded. Look at fashion images online for inspiration but don't be tempted to buy!
  6. Turn jumpers into cardigans, not as tricky as it sounds, tight knit shop bought ones don't usually unravel easily,  take care to cut straight at the the front and either overlock or zig zag firmly on a small stitch or bind with ribbon or tape and fold back to hem. Add buttons or fasteners of your choice.
  7. Try things on with lots of other things you wouldn't usually put together, add belts and scarves.  
  8. Add trims, ribbon or lace on the hem or at the neck. Be subtle with this maybe use the same colour tone as going overboard I think can date things. It is good for disguising mistakes or not too perfect necklines though.
  9.   Turn old jeans into shorts, everyone should do this as even if you only do gardening in them they will always get used! Also if you have a very short dress that you don't' wear because of the length, pop on a pair of cropped jeans underneath and the length is no longer an issue. How short you go is entirely up to you, as is whether or not you hem them or let them fray.
  10. Gaping necks on tops or dresses should never be a problem. A few stitches can sort that out! Take up shoulders if neck is too low at the front (length allowing of course) Add fake panel or lace on a very low v neck, sometimes strategically placed darts at either side of neck can sort out sagging issues. The no stitch option of course or if you really don't want to change the neckline is wear something under it, like here...


I love the colours on this dress but the neck gapes open, due to the panel below the bust raising the shoulders at all would result in that seam line cutting across the bust. Also any alteration to the wrap over feature would affect the fall of the pleats. Solution to this was to simply wear a sun top underneath, luckily I had one that goes perfect but failing that I had a white one which would also do the trick.
(I bought this dress about 4 years ago in a charity shop for £3, originally from Wharehouse)

So even if your fabric stash is getting a bit low I hope that has given you something to think about before you go out and buy more clothes or fabric.  See what you can do with your existing items and I would love to hear about it.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Do it yourself! It's cheaper

I painted the rest of the kitchen yesterday and was pleased to have this completed, it didn't take that long as a lot of it was tiled and I spray painted them the day before. It took three coats to cover the existing dark colour red, I had the radio on and I really don't mind painting and always do our own but it got me thinking how much would it have cost if we had to get someone in to do it?
The room is a lot brighter in pale blue.

I had a quick look around online to get some ideas and found these prices here, £200 just to paint a small room, I don't understand why any one would pay that, but my next thought was maybe I should do that!  I'm sure there are plenty of ladies who would rather have a female come and paint their house instead of some strange man ( not that male decorators are strange, but you know what I mean from a safety point of view.)
Then again I would probably not enjoy the process any longer if I had to do it day after day.
I think the ideal way of working for me would be to do a collection of things, some alterations one day, dog walking service, a bit of decorating and any other random thing that would bring in a bit of money and mean that I was my own boss.
I really like the idea of not having to answer to anyone else, tricky customers could be a problem I suppose but you could always move on from that. If anyone has that way of working it would be good to hear from you and how you make a go of it.
That said though I would like to encourage anyone thinking of hiring a decorator to paint your room not to! Just have a go yourself, I had not decorated before when we bought our first house 20 years ago but you soon get the hang of it. The good thing about paint is, it washes off, you can go over it and even if you do make mistakes they will be quite easy to fix and still cheaper than hiring some one else.
 Wall papering also just needs a bit of practice, buy cheap paper the first time and try it out in spare room or just one wall, again if it goes wrong it comes off easy enough but don't be put off, plus a few bubbles are normal when it is damp and will go when it is dry, loads of big bubbles and you might need to do that bit again!
I  have a bit more organising to do now in the rest of the house, for some reason when we all at work and school things get shoved in cupboards and drawers just out of the way but now they are full of clutter.  I wonder how it happens so quickly?  When you move house you tend to have a big clear out and think you will never accumulate so much random nonsense again but then you do!
Of course it is harder when you a have a family  as you are battling their stuff every where as well, I'm thinking of having designated boxes in a cupboard in each shared room so that if stuff is left on sides I'm just going to scoop it into there and then into the cupboard (once the cupboards are clear of course!). Then I will take the box out once a week and say get everything out of here that is yours and either put it away properly or it goes in the bin.
I am hoping this will work or at least stop us plonking things down on the work tops or coffee tables. That is what seems to be a problem, you think I will clear an area but then all the stuff belongs to different people and you don't want to be wandering around the house doing it for them all the time.  I hope the box system solves this.
One last thing I need to do is try and get us removed from some mailing lists or all of them! I spend too much time picking up mail from the floor in the hall, tearing it up and walking to the recycling bin!






Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Kitchen Tiles Upcycle

I have been having a lovely time being off work but yesterday decided it was time to get on with some of the jobs I have around the place which need doing.  I posted a while ago about changing the handles on my kitchen cupboards, well another thing that has bothered me for a while is the colour and pattern of the kitchen tiles.  When we have moved into a house in the past I have changed as much as I can almost immediately, when we moved here 6 years ago everything had been freshly done so while we did put our stamp on it, it would have been foolish and wasteful to change everything.  I have lived with the tiles which wouldn't have been my choice but now it was time for a change.
 I thought about re-tiling but that would create mess and a lot of expense.  The main thing I don't like is the beige colour so I looked at tile paint, now I have done this before with an undercoat and top coat at the old house but to be honest I didn't think the finish was that good up close.   We had a look when we were out at the weekend and found this...
You don't need to undercoat first just give your tiles a really good clean with bleach to remove any dirt or grease.  I have to say if you are going to use this cover everything including your mouth, have every window and door open!  It is really high in fumes and I had to keep doing a bit then going to the back door to breath.
I covered everything with newspaper and masking tape and still found a coating of the dust on the floor behind me nowhere near where I was spraying, so like I said cover your mouth. 
 I also had the annoying matter of running out halfway through, I bought two cans which my husband said would be enough, wrong! It took three so I had to pop out for more, I was glad of the breather though.
This is the before picture, the border tile all the way along is beige that doesn't show clearly in this image. 

Despite the fumes I am really happy with the way they turned out.

I think it has transformed the look and the room looks much brighter, it is not a very quick job as you have to spray it on evenly in a fine mist then re-coat at 15 minute intervals, if you try and get complete coverage all at once you will get runs in it.  I found this out the hard way and had to wipe it quick, and I mean quick as it dries fast.  The coverage is much better than the old paint it on method as you can get right up to it and it is completely smooth.
Today I will paint the remaining untiled walls in the kitchen pale blue, they are a dark red at the moment, I did this room a few years ago and they are ready for a freshen up now.

I had a nice surprise brought home for me yesterday, someone at my husbands work was selling her set of Game of Thrones books so my husband bought them for me at £5 for all of them! I have been watching the show but thought I would like to read the books as they often miss out things in the adaptations for the screen. 
They should keep me busy for a while!

I am also reading another book which is actually about not worrying about stuff, now I have to say I don't really worry that much, (I suppose we all do sometimes) but it was recommended and I have read some of his other books so I thought I would give it a try.

A lot of it is common sense, the things we worry about often don't ever happen, or worrying about them will not make them not happen so what is the point.  Also giving thanks for what you have, there is always someone worse off. 
 The most relevant points I found were about keeping busy and helping someone else, they key thing being don't allow yourself to sit and wallow about things go and do something and really throw yourself into it, that way you will be too pre occupied to think about worries.  Also find some way to help someone else as people who help others are not so inward looking as to be concerned with their own troubles all the time.
Some of the writing is a little dated but the message is good, anyone who has a problem with this ought to take a look.




Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Children do not need you to spend a fortune!

I have heard again today via the media that apparently parents are spending on average £80 per child per week to keep them entertained during the holidays! What! Who are these people and how come they have so much money to waste in times of so called austerity?
I certainly do not spend that and I don't know of any parents that can afford it, I think the figures may be skewed a bit here, are they factoring in childcare? Actual holiday costs for travel etc.? I think this must be the case as who can afford to spend that amount consistently for six weeks on entertainment alone without ruining the family finances.
The weather this summer in England has been fantastic so far as well so there really is no need for so much excess.  Monday I met up with friends at Endcliffe Park we all took food for a picnic, four adults and five children from five to fifteen, they all got on great.

Its a big park so they kept going off to the play area or kicking the ball around then coming back to us for a rest, we had a whole afternoon there, the only cost being an ice cream for the children.
This park is not our local but we chose it for a change,everyone has a range of parks in their city they can choose from and they are free!  I don't get why people feel that children can only enjoy the day if they have been taken to a costly holiday event.
Yesterday my two went to the local park in the afternoon for a bit, did some drawing, played computer games, we walked the dogs etc. (every day doesn't have to be planned out for them)  Today we have picked up one of their friends in the afternoon he is sleeping here and then we are going to the pool 'dip for a quid' all of us in the morning.  So it will be Thursday tomorrow, everyone is happy,  no one is bored and I have not come anywhere close to spending that ridiculous figure above.
I have a clubcard voucher for £8.50 which is worth more in rewards so that will be going on  cinema tickets for us.  We will wait for a rainy day for that one, I would not be going if not for that as the cinema is so expensive now for a family, you are looking at over £20 usually just for tickets so we usually just wait until they are on DVD.  Movies for juniors in the mornings are cheap but my oldest is too big for many of those films now.

 On a wet day you could let the kids invite friends round, rent a film from the library and buy pop corn and drinks, much cheaper than a day out at the cinema and having their friends there will make it feel like more of an event. (Just a thought, you may spend a fiver tops)
There are lots of things you can do that don't cost a lot or are completely free, libraries and museums always have events, as do parks, there is grass sledging near us this weekend plus football coaching all free.  I think sometimes people think activities are only worthy if they are costing money and some might shy away from the free stuff or less obvious choices, don't! Keep your money for more pressing emergencies or the actual family holiday or day trip if you are having one, but I don't think children should expect this every day of the week and if they do what are we teaching them? That you can only be happy if you can afford it. Bad message that one.


Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Organised Sewing Space

I have not done  a lot of sewing recently but we have been away, that is the first excuse, the second is that I could not see my sewing table for mess and I think I had become a bit complacent about sorting it all out.  I have kept adding to the clutter and so has everyone else in the house! Not all the stuff on there is mine,  some of the stuff is used school books my son was asked to sort but he has just popped them in a pile on my desk.
On the table are also some of my T shirts I need to shorten ( my own alterations always get left and other peoples get done straight away) also my Spanish book (two weeks of school holiday over and I have not done any) and of course various bits of fabric, bags of fabric on and under the table, a tin of decking stain beside the desk (why??)   So I think this was no longer a very inspiring area.  I got on and went through every bag, you would not believe the amount of fabric under the desk. It took ages to clear this small area as I culled all the fabric bits that will never be used as I have had them forever.  Small shelf from beside the desk has been removed as people see it as somewhere to stuff shoes because it is near the door and other nonsense.  When everything was wiped down and clear I felt so much better and I wonder why I have let it get that way. (oh yes, procrastination)
That's better you can actually see desk now.

I have some sewing to do for a couple of friends and my mum this week so that will get done, I always prioritise other peoples stuff.  I need to get some sort of order in my life for prioritising my own projects though.
  I have not made any more baby dresses as  I only sold two privately from a friend through facebook and I really didn't want to get stuck with a load of them, that feels a bit like giving up but the cost to make them is not worth having them sitting in a cupboard forever. 
 I know people who sell have loads of stock sitting in storage or whatever but it just drives me nuts.  The money saver in me is always complaining I have wasted cash but how can I get anywhere if I don't try.  
I need to have a serious think about what I can try next, but whatever it is, time consuming and expensive it shouldn't be, as people do not have the funds at the moment and they do not want to pay a premium for all the hours it takes for custom items.  
I have a tidy space to work in now, I just need some ideas and inspiration before it's time to go back to the day job!


Friday, 1 August 2014

Charity Shop Dresses and Feeling Good

I have just had a few days away in the caravan at  Whitby and lucky for us we picked a good week.  The sun has shone the whole time and it only rained one evening during the night.  Anyone who has a caravan will know that this is good news as there is nothing worse than being stuck inside while it pours.  We always take the dogs so it is not as if we can go and do an indoor activity if it rains because you can't usually take the dogs in anywhere.
 So lovely sunshine and a little bit of a look in the Charity shops, I don't know  why but Whitby and Scarborough have all the best Charity  shops or at least I always seem to spot something when we go there. We had a day at Scarborough also as it is just a short drive but Whitby was just a two mile walk so we walked there and back everyday.

Scarborough
When we get such good weather it really makes a difference.

So I had a look in the Charity shops like I said and spotted three dresses. Each one was £5 and I love them all, to be honest I saw more than three but I did restrain myself from buying more I'm going away again later this year so I though I had better pace myself. 
This one is a Dorothy Perkins dress and I have  a yellow dress in similar fabric that can be just washed, hung up and never needs ironing ( so a favourite of mine) I don't know how the little pleats will survive without an iron though, it is in the wash now so I will soon find out. 
This one is a make I don't know (Voodoo ?) again that lovely fabric that doesn't need an iron.  A summery dress but one that I think could be layered in the Autumn.
This is a definite summer dress but I love the colours.

So for £15 I have three new outfits. I am not some one who lets clothes sit in the wardrobe unworn, so the little bit of advice that tells people to get rid of clothes they haven't worn for a while rarely applies to me.
  I like to wear something nice everyday if I can.  If I am home on my own that makes no difference because I like to wear  clothes for me and not other people. 
Some items will only be worn in the summer but they will come out again next year and the year after.  This will go on until they no longer look good or I am fed up with them, if they are still in good condition when I tire of them they will go back to the charity shop.
It would have cost me more to make any one of these dresses and while I love to sew I also like to be practical about the value of it.
I think a dress is quick and easy you don't have to hunt around for something to go with it and I think they always look nice I'm also most comfortable in them.  
My mum likes to buy herself clothes to go out in at the weekend (she goes out once a week) she buys a lot, something new most weeks, however she will only wear these items for her weekly night out.  I really don't get this, she has an ever mounting collection of nice clothes that are rarely worn as she is always buying new but wears the same things day to day.  Her logic being 'but they are too nice to wear every day'  Why? Are we only allowed to look nice once a week?  
It is up to individuals how they dress and how they feel about this I know, but my feeling is if I think I am well presented then it makes me feel good, and I want to feel good everyday.  If other people don't like like that then that is up to them.  I don't think it needs to cost the earth and I certainly don't go in for expensive beauty treatments but if that is what makes you feel happy and you can afford it ( very important that bit!) then good for you. 
I have an amazing book called 'The 24 Hour turn Around' I think I may have mentioned it before...
My book doesn't have this cover it is very old and has been read many times.
In this book there is a whole section on appearance,( not as vacuous as it sounds) it is about they way people feel about them selves about how others perceive you.  It states that often when people have anything from a splash of perfume to cosmetic surgery it is not the thing that creates the feeling or change in appearance or mood, but rather the confidence it has given the individual that brings about the most change. 
If you have never read this book I would recommend it, some bits are cheesy but the positive message it has on many different aspects of life are just brilliant.  It is a quick read, intended to be read and digested over 24 hours, I read it a t 23 and have read it again many times since.  After my first reading of the book I enrolled in higher education, gained a degree, changed my job and my attitude, reassessed my attitude towards money and many other areas.  It was originally given to me by a friend  who never read it, I offered it back to her saying you should really read this, she didn't she wasn't bothered.  Personal development reading may not be you thing but you can get this book on Amazon for £1.77 it will be worth every penny. 
I might just mention  I have no affiliation with Amazon nor do I advertise or promote for pay, this is just a tool that I have found useful in my life. Let me know if you read it.








Little Bird Black Dress

It seems to me that I may have a bit of a thing for fabric with birds on it, I don't know why I have only just realised this.  I pulled ...