Saturday, 25 October 2014

Repairs, alterations and things I should have done in the first place

This post is prompted by Sarah Liz talking about doing alterations, and not liking that very much. How I agree!

When my youngest daughter came home last time, just as she was moving from one flat to another and so had gone through her things, she brought several garments for me to alter. Both her old and new flats have extremely limited wardrobe space.

She did apologise later!

One was a dress I had made her (Cynthia Rowley Simplicity 2250), but the fastenings didn't work properly so okay. I needed to change this as my original wasn't satisfactory in use. The straps were slightly too long and I've shortened them. She didn't want the original 'ears' used to tie the back as they wouldn't fit under a jacket without a bump. I wish now I had just gone with them because the style of the back with elasticated edges makes it difficult to get it to meet. So I had put a piece of fabric underneath and used 4 regular small poppets between the elasticated edge and the cloth underlay (after seeking advice from others). These poppets just didn't hold in wearing. I decided to try much stronger poppets (one of the other garments she brought me to repair had giant poppets so this alerted me to the availability of different sizes). Other options are trouser hooks and bars. My sewing teacher has suggested it's probably worth trying the poppets as the next step, if this is not successful, is making a buttonhole in the strap and attaching a button inside the dress but I fear that would be uncomfortable against the skin for my daughter. I think the result is acceptable but it remains to be seen whether it holds in wearing.

New large poppets and showing addition of fabric strap

Final result, back view; straps are shortened by 2"

No change to front view
Call me crazy but I'm going to offer to deconstruct two which are irreparable - one is an expensive lined dress, the other a top with sentimental attachments.

The dress shows evidence that perhaps my daughter has had the dress too long - the lining is in shreds and the seams have not just separated but clearly show evidence of strain: there is damage to the fabric.
This is back vent after repair, turned up to show shredded lining
She is slim but perhaps she is less slim than she was when she got this dress, which is a very closely fitting sheath dress with a pleated front, vented back skirt and an interesting back detail. I managed to stitch up the back seam, below the invisible zip. However, I think that this has never been stitched properly, judging by the pattern of damage. It looks like the fabric had been pulled too far over at the vent area. Someone suggested putting a bow over the damaged area - that might work but the lining is in shreds, too. The top half of the dress is fine. I like the look of the dress and would love to deconstruct and remake it - as long as the dress as is fits! I'm going to visit my daughter next week so will see what she thinks. I don't have a suitable bow to use. I don't intend to do anything other than add a bow - that is, I'm not going to try to replace the lining. I think it would be easier to remake a similar if not identical dress. I have a Burda pattern with a similar skirt. The back detail on the bodice is a problem, though

The dress has a lovely classic overall shape

I really like the detail on the bodice back

Repaired back seam. Dry clean only dress in need of cleaning and pressing!
After repair to back seam; shows damage to fabric where I think stitching was incorrect in first place
 One dress was no problem - it was essentially just stitching on a fancy fastener - a giant poppet.. At least, then I found some of the other fasteners were loose too. As this dress has a full back exposed zip, I'm not too sure why it needs the giant poppets!
Overall view of the dress. DD has slim hips so can afford to wear this style.

Close up of top poppet fastening
Rear exposed zip

Close up of outside of front, over poppets; some interesting embroidery in cruciate shape
There is another top (dress?) and to be honest I haven't a clue how it works and so can't work out how to fix it! A strap has come off, but I'm not clear where it fastens to re-sew it. There is an area of damage, which I reinforced with some fusible interfacing but this one needs to wait until I see my daughter.
Front view

It's a strange floppy bit - does it go up like I have pinned? Does strap fix to it?
Area under floppy bit with loop and damaged bit (see next photo).
Can just see other strap - much thicker - and no floppy bit!

Not sure if strap joins here; evidence of previous repair
One of the other tops has a double layer - a fine fabric over a stretch fabric and the fine fabric had frayed on one side of the back seam, coming free from the seam. I've unpicked the seam and reattached slightly narrower to take in good fabric. I hope this top wasn't too small as it's slightly smaller now! However, I think it is quite a loose fitting style. The end result looks acceptable so I can just hope it will work in practice. When I put it on the model, I realised it is a dress not a top!

Seam has been repaired - just about to repair hem (while watching TV)

Fine printed light grey fabric over a darker grey stretch base

That brings me to the other top my daughter wanted repaired. It is a black relatively fine cotton cheesecloth type cloth with a heavily embroidered yoke, which she absolutely loves. The fabric in this case is irretrievably damaged. There are two options (other than abandoning the top altogether that is!) - one is to take the top to pieces and use the sections as pattern for a new top, re-inserting the original embroidered yoke; the other is to make up a completely new but similar top using a pattern that I have already but it would be more difficult to get the yoke to fit. It's also going to be difficult to get the black fabric. There is just no way, I believe, to repair this, unfortunately.

Daughter tried to repair with large stitches - fabric coming away

The tear is under arm from front to back

Overall back of top

Back of top showing yoke with embroidery

Overall view of top

I took the garments to my sewing class for some advice. One of my fellow students commented that my daughter's style was quite adventurous (I can't actually remember the word she used). When I was ironing and photographing the repairs (on my smartphone - it was handy and just easier - and I hadn't realised until now I can upload straight from my phone - so much quicker, though no editing of them), I realised that was the case. I also saw that the black dress was very much more difficult to get onto the model, perhaps another reason it got so damaged.

Hopefully my daughter will appreciate the repairs I've done - but not too much as I'd prefer not to have to do any more!  I think she should perhaps invest in some new items. I'm not sure whether her garments show evidence of having been loved - or abused. But I'm sure I can't restore them to their former glory.


  1. Anne, the large poppets should hold the dress - they can be quite firm. Do tell your daughter to carefully prise them apart - if you just tug them apart, the weakest point might give - the fabric underneath. I think your daughter has a well used wardrobe - as one would expect from someone who has been studying, and I think that you might be right about the need for new clothes. The pattern you have chosen looks lovely.

    1. Thanks, Sarah Liz. Yes, her wardrobe is well used indeed! I'm in her flat ( she's out of town) but hopefully I'll see her to query the couple of items. I know from a phone call she's not keen on a bow on black dress so I'm not sure there's much I can do.

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  3. Your daughter is so lucky to have a Mum clever and willing enough to fix things for her, I really like the black fess with the interesting cut-out back detail. A really interesting design! :)

  4. Thank you. I'd like to say my daughter agrees with you....! That dress is lovely. I'm hoping to get an idea of how DD wants to proceed.

  5. great post! It's so cool that you caan make your own repairs and alterations!


    1. Thank you! Maybe not so great when it's for other people! My daughter hasn't even told me if the repairs worked - well I know the grey top/dress did because she wore it as soon as she got it. I've still to tackle the green to and the black one.


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