In reading Needled, I’ve…

In reading Needled, I've also been completely enthralled by how she refashions shapeless old garments into totally charming new ones. I've had to buy some new work clothes this fall due to the summer weight loss, which was satisfying. But it would be far more satisfying to take all those XL and maternity clothes -- at least the tops and dresses -- and remake them into something that fits me now (on the border between L and M). But I have no room to sew here without tripping over children, and I also don't really know how to do anything beyond a straight seam.

So a question for those who know the mysteries of sewing? If I: a) ask for someone to give me some basic sewing classes for a Xmas present (the Oak Park park district offers basic sewing at a reasonable price), and if I

b) pack up all these clothes into a big bin and put them aside until spring, when we're settled in the new house and then I

c) actually set up my sewing machine in the craft room downstairs and leave it set up, along with an iron and ironing board, making it so much more likely that I will actually sew something, then

d) is it at all realistic to think that by, say, next fall, I might be able to refashion my clothes into something that fits my new size?

I might, of course, gain back the weight before then, but it seems unlikely -- I put on 15-20 pounds with each pregnancy, but have otherwise basically held steady for most of my adult life, give or take 5 pounds. And in the two months since the summer of weight loss, without any effort on my part, my weight has held steady. I'm actually planning to make one more push this month (October) to lose the last of the pregnancy weight (5-10 pounds) before winter comes, with its ardent desire for starch.

I'm trying to be realistic about the sewing idea, because I don't want to just have these clothes sit in a box for years. If they're not refashioned by next fall, I'd rather they went to someone else in need -- there are plenty of places to donate clothes around here. So is the idea of getting good enough at sewing to manage this competently (nothing fancy, but not looking totally amateurish either) in half-a-year at all reasonable?

(Note: If you're a local friend who wears XL or XL maternity, I'm also very happy to have you rummage through the box and take whatever appeals to you.)

6 thoughts on “In reading Needled, I’ve…”

  1. I turned a couple of dresses into skirts, with little to no sewing skill. Then the rest of the clothes I wanted to refashion stayed in the box where I had them stored. But I did wear the skirts I refashioned for quite some time.

    I’d say, take the class if you feel it wold be helpful, but it may not be completely necessary.

    The real trick is making sure that the clothes don’t get permanently stored in the sewing bin.

  2. I taught myself to saw, but it’s definitely worth taking a course. My suggestion is: take the course, and once you have enough room to leave everything set up, do all the clothes you still want to wear. Otherwise, the annoyance of having to put things away would diminish the pleasure of sewing.


  3. I have nothing useful to add (and I know nothing about sewing), but your post reminded me to quote something I saw on Twitter the other day:

    “If you like ironing, cutting, and swearing, then you should try sewing. If you like actually sewing… try something else.”

    emilyjs (retweeted by a friend of mine)

  4. I just started sewing in February, and I’ve added about 11 skirts to my wardrobe (skirts being the easiest thing to make, of course). But take the course, because I think either sewing grabs you or it doesn’t. I took a two-evening course and was a convert. Yes, there’s a lot of cutting, ironing, and swearing, but the making outweighs that for me. Knitting and crochet never grabbed me in the same way.

    But re your specific question–fitting the bust is hard, and alterations are hard. If the shoulder/bust still fit and all you have to do is bring in the waist, I’d think it’s totally realistic (darts seem mysterious but are easy). If you’ll need to re-adjust the bust, consult an expert on whether it’s doable at novice level. Take some garments to your sewing teacher and see what she thinks (a shop here runs an open sewing night class where I can take things I need help with). Alternatively, I have some stretchy skirts I’m planning to just cut tanktops out of, because I like the material but not the skirt. So a true refashion instead of altering might be easier, if you’ve got large pieces of fabric.

    But among various sewing blogs, it seems there are a bunch of people making entire outfits who haven’t been sewing very long, like this guy:

    I don’t have much space, so I tend to leave the stuff set up for a few days while I work on a project, then put it away until the next project.

  5. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Thanks, folks — this is all very helpful. Just to clarify, I’m not a complete novice — with the help of a friend, I once managed to make a period-appropriate flapper dress out of silk (!) for a Halloween costue. No sleeves (which I am scared of) or even zippers, but a decent tank dress nonetheless, with a big floppy bow in front. And I made a couple of SCA gowns with the long flowy princess sleeves.

    I’ve learned the value of ironing, and I quite like cutting out a pattern, pinning it, cutting the fabric. The actual sewing part is a little more intimidating, but I’ve hemmed a room’s worth of curtains, and can whip out a napkin with relative ease.

    I do definitely want to take a few classes, because I am sure there are small techniques that would make my sewing go much smoother. Mostly, I do need to adjust the bustline of my tops — that’s one of the areas where I’ve lost weight, post-nursing. Thank god — 34DD is really plenty big enough; going up to J was no fun. I’m hoping I can just take in the sides a bit and have it work? Hmm…yes, asking a class instructor probably is a wise move.

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