taking in a dress shirt

Well, hello there! Let’s talk about dress shirts. John has a closet full of perfectly nice dress shirts, but they are a little loose on him. Especially since he’s in a business casual environment at work, which in Norway is waaaay more fitted than the standard is in the US. So I volunteered to slim down his shirts and give them a longer shelf life (heh, literally). This is, I think, the third shirt I’ve taken in, if anyone remembers this “around here” snapshot.

I wanted to share this as a tutorial, so this time I took some pictures I’ll be posting separately as a how-to for taking in a men’s dress shirt. But now, the before and after!

john_shirt_front_before  john_shirt_front_after3

As you can see, John had a haircut in between the pinning and sewing of the shirt as well! With taking in a shirt you’ll mostly shave off from the sides, and there are some limitations. For example – the breast pocket has a tendency to end up a smidge too close to the armpit, and there will be some draglines from the shoulder to the underarm. The draglines are mostly from the flat curve of the top of the sleeve that is common in shirts, and something that can be fixed by taking the sleeve off and reworking the shape of both the sleeve and the armscye. I don’t think it’s worth to do that alteration that unless the shoulder seam hits too low, and the body and the sleeve is really big.

It’s a definite improvement from the front, but the major difference is the side view! The first picture is the before, and then where I’ve pinned the sides and a couple of darts in the back, and finally the finished after. Much better! This is the first time I made darts in the back. Even after pinning in the sides there was a lot of billowing in the back (which was John’s biggest annoyance with this shirt), so a couple of moderate darts did the trick to contour the shape a little.

The billowy before

Pinned in

Tucked in and ready.

I’m including the back view because I was a little worried about the darts showing. I’ve seen mens’ shirts with darts in the back, and they look perfectly fine, but I was still concerned about it looking too… girly? You can definitely see them if you look for them, but I’m pleased that they aren’t overly obvious.

john_shirt_after_backIt’s not a spectacular sewing project, but a very satisfying tweak that means John has a closet full (well, eventually – when I do this to the rest of them!) of shirts that actually fit. I’ll leave you with a slightly out of focus picture of John demonstrating how happy he is with his newly fitted shirt. I promise, he really is happy!


I’ll be back with a tutorial on how to measure and distribute what is being taken out, and tips for sewing.

fix-it-friday: vintage dress let loose


I don’t know if this dress has ever made an appearance on this here blog, but I bought it some six or seven years ago during an impulse trip to Copenhagen with a friend. It was a good trip – my friend had some days off work, I did too, so we took an overnight bus down there and experienced odd people on that bus, and we saw old people dance to live music in the Tivoli, and went to the superb art museum Louisiana, and I bought the best smelling sunscreen ever, and after pinching our pennies all trip long, we ended up having to take a taxi from the bus station back to the apartment we’d been staying at to retrieve… ahem… a bus ticket, and then back to the waiting bus in the nick of time. Oh, and I fell in love with and bought this dress in a basement vintage shop on a cobbled side street after a decadent sandwhich lunch in the sun.


It’s always made me feel like a flight attendant for a cowboy airline. I think it’s the piping, and maybe the epaulettes? It goes wonderfully with turquoise necklaces, by the way, as you can see. And up until a couple of weeks ago, I was going to hem the thing – the vintage length isn’t necessarily too flattering on me, and I figured this was a perfect fix-it-friday thing that would take me all of 15 minutes, and then I’d actually start wearing the dress again.

I had chalk and a ruler out, and I put the dress on to have John help me measure how much to shorten it by, and it hit me. Even with a shorter length, I wouldn’t use it more. Even with fixing the bust which has really always been a little too roomy, I wouldn’t use it more. Even with all the memories of how I bought this, I wouldn’t use it more, and even knowing what it meant to me at the time to have chosen this dress in a style totally different from all of my friends, and the victory that the choice had felt like…. I wouldn’t use it more.

IMG_1191-2I absolutely love this dress. And for several years, it was the style I had chosen for myself. But the current me doesn’t feel comfortable and invigorated by it anymore, so the right fix for this one (and right up the alley for my 2013 goals of dealing with my fix-it-pile by any means necessary) is actually to let it go and be loved by someone else. So, dear dress – off to e-bay you go.

fix-it-friday: african dress tweaks


I love this dress. It was gifted to me years ago by a friend after she had travelled in Africa, and I so loved that she picked this color for me. I also have loved the fabric – a lightweight, gauzy kind; the traditional (I assume as much) print with what reads to me as a typically “Western” dress shape, which all adds up to a quirky dress I have worn and loved for years.

Why have it ended up as a friday-fix then?


First issue – it wasn’t lined in the skirt. You can probably see in the picture that the bodice is self-lined, but the skirt is a single layer. I’ve always had to wear a slip or an underskirt, and I haven’t loved either option. It was also a smidge looser in the waist than it needed, so I have now taken it in slightly.


In addition, not all construction details have held up to my use over the years. The (invisible!) zipper was just folded under at the top, and the fabric at the corners were actually starting to tear. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that exposed seams with uneven seam allowance was bothering me a little (how perfectionist are you allowed to be?!), so with the prospect of tweaking some aspects of the dress, I decided to just go ahead and disassemble, neaten, and reassemble.


As I was trying to decide between reinstalling the invisible zipper or changing it out for an exposed metal zipper, I realized two things. One was that metal is cold against bare skin, and the other was that I don’t think I have actually unzipped this dress a single time. It’s loose enough to just slip over my head, so in a move worthy of Mena of SewWeekly (who has made it almost a trademark to get away without pesky zippers), I did in fact omit the whole thing. It’s of course a little more snug now that I’ve taken in the waist a little, but I can still manage to just pull it on over my head!


As for the skirt, I lined it with some yellowish green polyester stuff I’ve had around for *ages*, so yey stashbusting too! I did the trick (I used it also on my recent wintery summer dress) of sewing the seam allowances of the outside fabric and the lining together to anchor them at strategic points, which I’ll be doing a tutorial of sorts (more like a guide. I like guides.) in my next post, so look for that!

In my sewing corner I currently have one of John’s dress shirts that I’m taking in, and a Minoru jacket underway, and I’m so happy to be knocking out and actually finishing projects again. After my surprise at how little I actually sewed in 2012, I think this year is getting off to a good start!

Fix it Friday: chair gets cozied up

This weeks fixing is not a garment. That’s ok, right? I bought this chair years ago, and it became my first re-upholstering project as I covered the kind of dingy yellow cotton with a luscious  silk. I thought (and still think) that the dark wood looked lovely with the saturated royal blue, but our apartment kind of looks like 1001 nights camping out with vintage/modern Scandinavian things right now, and I’m working on making it more nordic. Also, the fabric was starting to tear. No worries, the silk will be repurposed as bias binding!


Also, taking pictures in the winter is hard with the lack of daylight in the hours I’m at home doing crafty things. We decided (well, I decided, but John took the pictures (thanks!), so – “we”) to put the chair in the spotlight and take some interrogation style pictures. You have to make your own entertainment sometimes!

I saw this chair on pinterest a while ago, and I thought pairing knits with things you sit on seemed like a fantastic idea. A randomly gifted scarf came to the rescue, and now the chair is all cozied up.

The beauty of a small project like this, is that I can change out the seat fabric whenever I want. All I need is a half yard of fabric and a little time! I might not want to keep it like this forever, but for right now, I think it’s cute.

Fix it Friday: pants to mini-skirt

Sherry of pattern~scissors~cloth had a “Fix-it-Friday” last week, and I love the idea! I definitely also have a pile of things that needs some fixing and refashioning, and seeing other people tackling their pile in a semi-organized way is a great inspiration to tackle my own!

Mmm, my Bayview Street Cardigan is back in action!

I don’t have any before pictures of these cropped, slightly wide-legged pants before they became a skirt. I rediscovered them while visiting my parents over Christmas, and while I’ve always loved the pinstripes and the soft fabric of the pants, I really wasn’t loving the pants anymore. I bought the pants on a trip to Dublin with my dear friend, so I’m sure the memories I’d attached to the pair made it hard to toss them out!

All the cars driving around was making me a bit nervous – look at my fist  clenched up in a ball!

It was a pretty easy refahion; I unpicked the inseams, and up to the bottom of the fly on the front, and the widest part of my hips on the back. I tried really hard to get a straight line down from those points – but the fly is set in on a curve, so there is some odd stuff going on in the front. It’s not super-noticable, and I’ve decided I’m happy. I mimicked the faux flat-felled seams that was already going on, which is just the seam allowance folded to one side and top-stitched ¼” apart. You can kind of make it out in the close-up above.

It’s a bit on the narrow side, and if I had more patience and/or time I would have put in a vent in the back, so I could stride along uninhibited! Nitpicking aside, I’m super-happy with having a mini-skirt I’ve used several times this week from something I never wore. I’m looking forward to tweaking and tackling more cast-offs from my wardrobe!

another marie-skirt

Finally, the other Marie skirt. I made the first one two years ago, refashioned from another skirt. This past summer, I made my second one, also refashioned from another skirt.

While I find it satisfying and sometimes exhilarating to create something new out of a pre-existing garment, it has a tendency to also be frustrating and a lot more difficult than I imagine when I set out. Maybe because of my impatience since the garment is practically half-finished already, but all of my re-fashions have a tendency to be full of botched techniques and lots of fudging!

I did try something fun with this skirt, which was to use a stable woven fabric in place of interfacing – I used a scrap of plain simple weave cotton. After following sewing blogs that focuses on vintage patterns and techniques (Gertie’s new blog for better sewing and sewaholic especially), I’ve been very inspired to try some on my own! This technique is supposed to provide some stability, without affecting the movement and look of the fabric like fusible interfacing does. Plus, I’m a sucker for using things I already have on hand!

The patterned fabric I used for the waistband facing was partly just for fun, and partly because I didn’t have enough of the skirt fabric left over. Actually, what you can’t really tell in the pictures is that I had to piece together the outside waistband in several places to make a waistband at all! This is where the botching of the skirt began, by the way. I then decided to match up the seamlines on the waistband with the pleats on the skirt, but that proved to be a bit of a hassle with the less than accurate piecing together of the waistband. Also – how easy is it to sew five layers of fabric together? Hmm… yes, a little hard. That’s how many layers I had at the intersection of skirt-pleat and waistband-seam.

Regardless of the mishaps I had while sewing, and subsequent corrections I’ve had to make (did the waistband stretch because it has no real interfacing? Did I measure incorrectly?), this is a skirt I’ve gotten a lot of use out of. For proof, I present to you the outfits I made around the “another Marie-skirt” in the month of September alone, during my Self-Stitched-September- stint:

Click to see larger

I find it a little funny that I only seem to wear black, white, or grey with this skirt, but it does showcase the rich red-violet color of the skirt. So, clearly I now have two new goals: 1. wear this skirt with some colored tops, and 2. Find me a skirt to cut up for another (another) Marie-skirt. They will rule my closet!

(trainstation-photos by the boy, pattern from Burdastyle)

thrifted skirt remake

I thrifted this skirt a while ago. I never really wore it, as it felt too long, hitting at an unflattering point 3 or 4 inches under the knee. I figured it’d be better if I shortened it, so I did, and it now hit just above the knees. But it felt too juvenile all of a sudden. Finally, after a lot of time spent not being worn, I found a way to bring the skirt back to life (and I’ve already worn it lots of times after finishing it!). I see now that the base color of the skirt matches my own skin-tone too well, and I think this is another reason I didn’t wear it much – it just blended in with my legs. The fix was a wide strip of contrasting fabric that seems to ground the skirt, defining a stopping point and providing the visual anchor that it was lacking.

Oh, sweet thrifted skirt, welcome back in my closet.

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