Thursday, 19 October 2017

Refashioning project: improving the fit of a stretchy sweater

One of my biggest problems with fast fashion is its short lifespan; so many high street clothes are destined for landfill sooner rather than later. We can extend the lifespan of our clothes by choosing selectively and washing carefully, but what do we do when the clothes we like start looking a bit worse for wear?

I bought this sweater in Primark a few years ago; I liked the contrasting knitted textures and the metal sequin details on the shoulders. Unfortunately, it inexplicably grew sideways every time I washed it, and the ribbing at the hem and cuffs went wrinkly. The sweater wasn't oversized enough to create an interesting volume contrast if I wore it with something fitted, but it looked too baggy and shapeless to be part of a 'smart' outfit. It just wasn't my style any more and wasn't working as part of my wardrobe. I knew if I took it to a charity shop it wouldn't fly off the shelf as it had obviously been worn and washed a fair few times, so my only options were to abandon it to the textile recycling, or try to transform it into something I would be happy to wear.

I unpicked the side seams and most of the raglan armhole, leaving about 3cm where the armhole met the neckline, as I wanted to leave that intact. I turned the sweater inside out and marked a vertical 'centre front' and 'centre back' line, measuring the mid-point of the neckline, the hem and the widest part (underarm to underarm). Stretch clothes can warp and twist around the body if the pattern pieces aren't positioned correctly on the fabric when they are cut out, so refashioning a garment like this can be a good opportunity to correct this problem. I marked a possible new side seam line based on my bust and waist measurements, then pinned it on my dressmaking stand to check it.

Having a dressmaking stand or mannequin is really handy if you do a lot of dressmaking, but if you don't have the money or space for one you can fit the garment directly onto yourself instead; just use safety pins instead of straight pins so the pins don't get dislodged as you take the garment off, and get a friend to help if necessary! Fit with the sweater inside out, and use the chalk centre front and centre back lines as a guideline to avoid pulling either side too tight; these two lines should remain vertical. 

I also altered the sleeves, using my bicep and wrist measurements as a guide, but allowing a few centimetres of 'ease' so the fit wouldn't be too snug.

Stretch clothing is usually assembled using specialist machines in factories, but it's possible to alter stretch clothes at home with just a regular sewing machine. I used a long, narrow zig-zag stitch to sew the seams, and a shorter, wider zig-zag on the edge of my seam allowance to stop it fraying. The seams have enough stretch to allow me to pull the sweater on or off easily, but the new fitted shape is much more my style. I can wear it tucked into a skirt for work, or with trousers for a more casual look

I couldn't resist posing with some of the wonderful willow sculptures at Wakehurst Place, then got a bit silly with the light/colour balance while I was editing my photos, but it looks like my upcycled sweater is the perfect thing to wear in a psychedelic autumnal wonderland! 

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit to being a failed seamstress ... but I have a lovely friend who does a bit of altering for me and my plan for this winter is to learn to do a bit of sewing. First on the list is the (hopefully) simple task of making some hankies out of a worn out duvet cover. Wish me luck!