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.

I ♥ reupholstery class: sanding and staining

I love reupholstery class – at least, I’m coming back around. I spent several weeks carrying this chair a mile back and forth between my apartment and class, so that I could get the sanding and staining done on the woodwork. That’s been quite the pain, and taken much longer than I expected, so I haven’t been unequivocally in love with the project for a few weeks!

Now I’m back on track, and I figured I’d show the work on the springs, and then the sanding and staining pictures.

imageThe springs are sewn with thick thread to the jute webbing, which is attached in a woven pattern. Looking at this from underneath, the second set of webbing should overlap in the center to be on top. That makes for a more stable foundation to attach the springs to.

imageThe webbing attached first with staples (that’s an  air pressurized staple gun I’m using!) at one end, then you use a stretcher to pull the webbing taut, and then staple the other end. Finally it’s secured with two nails at either side of the folded over webbing. I didn’t take a picture after that and the springs being sewn on, but I’ll do that for the next post.

imageThen the fun part! Actually it’s really confusing, and a little hard. But this is the part of the process where you both get to see exactly how much knowledge and work goes into upholstery, and the start of a real seat shape to the chair. The jute rope is tied to the springs in a very specific combination of different knots at different points, to stabilize the chair seat and prevent the springs from moving too much towards each other and potentially squeak. This also controls the height and shape of the seat. I feel like a rookie boy-scout learning these new-to-me knots!


imageWhat has taken up most of my time has actually been sanding and staining the woodwork on the chair. First I used a straight edge knife to shave off as much old lacquer and stain as possible. And there was a lot! There are a lot of nooks and crannies in the profiled woodwork, so I also used a chemical lacquer and paint-remover. I suspect it didn’t work optimally because of the old age of the varnish, or maybe the too-cold basement I was working in. Either way, I had to do several rounds of scraping, varnish-be-gone goo, more scraping, and goo, then a good sanding to get the wood prepared for staining.

imageThe goo covered in aluminum foil so it wouldn’t dry out while waiting for it to work.

chair_sanding_fullAnd this is what it looked like after all that varnish was removed! Before, and…..

chair_stain_full…after! I used an oil based stain. I considered a lacquer based stain, but I didn’t want a shiny and hard finish on the woodwork like a varnish would provide. The oil based stain and finishing oil can be applied with a rag instead of a brush, and I like that aspect of it. The oil brings out the woodwork beautifully too!


chair_stain_detailI used a brush to get all into the little crevices of the cut out profiles, trying really hard not to get dark brown stain on the parts I meant to keep natural wood-colored, since it would be hard to remove it again. It took a whole lot of work, very much so worth it now, and I’m so happy to be on the after-side of fixing up the wood!

I ♥ reupholstery class

I just had my first night of reupholstery class! I’ve been wanting to take this class for a couple of years, but the timing (or economy…) hasn’t been in my favor – but this fall I will be taking this old chair apart, and putting it back together again!

chair_pre_reupholsteryI bought the chair at a flea market down the street from where I lived last time I belonged here in Bergen, some 7 years ago. I remember paying the 75 kr (about $12), thinking it was a steal, and feeling giddy walking home with it balanced on my head. The other night I walked with it on my head again, almost the exact opposite route, to take it to class. After years and years of usage I am so excited to be sprucing it up, and to be doing it thoroughly!



First step was to start removing the fabric, and assess what parts could be saved. My chair is plenty solid in the woodwork, the cardboard backing is fine, and the wool batting at the back is ok. Pretty much everything else is going!




That meant that I removed all pins and nails to get the seat fabric off, as well as the wool and horsehair batting. The horsehair, if it was a larger amount, would have been salvagable, but as a thin layer it appearently just means that the maker of this chair was a bit cheap! Which, maybe isn’t too strange – it is a late 30s or early 40s chair, so I can imagine the maker being mindful of the cost.


Under the downtrodden seat batting, there was a burlap like cushion, stuffed with what looks like hay.  I’m not sure it is, but several of the other people in my class found something similar in their own chairs, so whatever it is, it’s normal. Removing another layer of burlap-like fabric because of big worn holes at the front, edges and sides, revealed the springs:


Unfortunately, most of them had to go too. The three 7-coil springs in the back were ok since it’s the point of least stress in the seat, and will be reinstalled. The front 3 rows of coils will all be replaced by new ones. We measured the rows at the top of the coils, so we know what height they get reinstalled at. The final task of the evening was to remove the ribbons at the bottom of the seat, that the coils have been attached to, and my god were they dusty! I could brush away a 1/4″ layer of dust and fabric fuzz! Which reminds me to do a solid vacuuming of the two chairs I still have in the apartment…

This was so much fun! I am beyond excited to be rebuilding this from the ground up, and I find it fascinating to peel away layer upon layer and see how this thing is constructed. For next weeks class I’ll be having a go at the layers of lacquer and stain on the woodwork, removing it the best I can. It involves scraping off layers with a sharp knife, sanding, and washing it down with a chemical solution (outside, mask on), to remove the last dregs. This process is similar to a lot of sewing projects and alterations – it has to look much worse before it gets better!

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.

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)

a sweater, two hats, and a pattern of sorts

The first  sweater I successfully frogged, or recycled for it’s yarn, was a charcoal wool/cotton blend Eddie Bauer specimen:

Even after knitting an entire new sweater for the boy, there was still a whole lot of yarn left. It was like an endless supply! Alongside the seamless sweater, there now exists an almost finished scarf, a baby-hat, a pair of socks, and,two adult-sized hats from this one original sweater.

The first of the hats I made, was the Butterfly beret by Rachel Iufer (ravelry link here). My Eddie Bauer yarn was thinner than what the pattern called for, so I ended up adding some repeats, both in width and length, to get the right size. The butterfly stitch is very clever, and it was an enjoyable and fairly easy knit. This is a gift for a friend, so hopefully she’ll be equally as happy with the hat as I am!

And now for something kind of exciting. I knitted a second hat, and this one I concocted the pattern for all by myself. This isn’t terribly unusual or noteworthy – a lot of my projects involve making things up as I go, and re-doing until I satisfied. What is exciting is that after knitting this self-composed hat twice, I’ve decided to write out the directions and publish it as a free pattern! I hope to have it finalized within a couple of days, so keep an eye out for:

the Reversible biking hat!

(ETA: The pattern is now available in this blogpost!)

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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