DIY Wardrobe Makeovers: Alter, Refresh & Refashion Your Clothes - Step-by-Step Sewing Tutorials

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Unlock your closet's potential with simple wardrobe fixes and refashions to express your style. These basic alterations and step-by-step restyling tutorials will help you fit and reassemble garments into newfound faves. No sloppy shortcuts here-learn how to alter sweaters, pants, and everything in your wardrobe for a more flattering fit. Take it in, take it up, or let it out-all on your home sewing machine. Spend less, look better!

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Take It In: Take In a Sweater or Knit Top

ePub

Take It In

Take In a Sweater or Knit Top

This simple alteration project shows one of the most basic, but essential techniques I use. I often find sweaters are too boxy or shapeless, or that the waist is too high for my body. Adjust the side seams of these baggy sweaters with a few quick steps that make a huge difference. I’ve used this technique many times on cardigans, heavier-weight tees, and pullover sweaters to improve their fit.

You Will Need:

•Loose or shapeless tee or sweater

•Standard sewing supplies

•Fabric pen or chalk (optional)

Get It Done

1. Turn the sweater inside out and try it on. Pinch it in as desired at both side seams, approximately the same amount on each side. On one side, place several pins to mark where the narrowest point should be and where it should taper back to the original seam.

2. Press the sweater flat with an iron where you need to take in the seam. Move the pins if necessary to ensure that you capture an equal amount of fabric from the front and back sides and that the original seam is aligned along the side. Create a smooth line with the pins from the original side seam near the armpit to the narrowest point of the new waist, and down to the hip. Use a fabric pen if desired to connect the line between the pins.

 

Take It Up: Shorten Jeans

ePub

Take It Up

Shorten Jeans

You can’t always find a great pair of jeans with the perfect inseam—sometimes you’re in between lengths, or there’s no inseam choice. But if you’ve ever tried just cutting off the bottoms of your jeans and hemming them, you know that it never looks right. Jeans hemmed by the manufacturer have a worn-in look that is hard to replicate in a home sewing room. This clever technique creates a tuck just above the hem stitching line. The original hem is removed and the tuck is trimmed to less than ½˝, allowing it to be inserted into the hem allowance. When the hem is re-sewn, the tuck seems to disappear. You can keep the original hem and shorten the jeans to exactly the right length.

You Will Need:

•Jeans that are too long

•Topstitch thread that matches the topstitching on the jeans

•Standard sewing supplies

Get It Done

1. Try on the jeans. Mark with pins or a fabric pen where you want the hem to end.

2. Remove the jeans. With a seam ripper or pointy thread snips, take out the seam of the original hem on both legs. I recommend doing this by snipping every third stitch on the underside of the seam, and then pulling the top thread away in a single easy pull. (See Removing Stitches, Method 1.)

 

Let It Out: Let Out Pants Side Seams

ePub

Let It Out

Let Out Pants Side Seams

Giving more room on tight seams is one of the simplest fixes you can make to improve fit on ready-made clothes. For some of us, jeans that fit in the hips and around the bottom are very tight in the thighs and calves. This trick, when done correctly, will produce a high-quality, comfortable result. Do this on pants or jeans that are a little too snug along the leg or even on the sleeves of a snug blouse or unlined jacket. It is a very simple way to get some necessary extra room!

You Will Need:

•Jeans or pants that fit in the hips but are too snug in the legs

•Standard sewing supplies

Get It Done

Refer to Removing Stitches, Method 1, for guidance.

1. Turn the jeans inside out and use a seam ripper to pick out every second or third stitch of the outer seam. Leave alone the serger stitches that finish off the inside of the seam and keep the fabric from unraveling. (These stitches will hold the front and back pieces together before you sew a new seam.)

 

Take It Up: Shorten a Curved-Hem Shirt

ePub

Take It Up

Shorten a Curved-Hem Shirt

Many button-down woven shirts have curved hemlines and very shallow hems, so the basic methods for hemming are difficult to apply. But once you know the tricks for curved hemlines, you can alter these flattering tops with finesse! This one was almost tunic length on me and I wanted a more traditional length.

You Will Need:

•Too-long button-down woven shirt

•Standard sewing supplies

Note

Since the shirt hem is on a curve, a narrower hem will be easier to sew and will lie flat more easily. The shirt shown here is lightweight, so I used a very small (¼˝ (6mm)) hem. If your fabric is heavier, you may need to turn up the hem slightly more to accommodate the fabric’s bulk. Try to re-create the depth of the original hem.

Get It Done

Refer to Removing Stitches for guidance.

1. Try on the shirt and mark the desired new length with pins, placing at least one pin at each side seam, center front, and center back. Take off the shirt, fold in half along the center front and center back, and pin together the left and right sides to keep them perfectly aligned.

 

Take It In: Tighten a Loose Waistband

ePub

Take It In

Tighten a Loose Waistband

Gapping at the back waistband of a pair of jeans seems to be a very common problem. So often jeans don’t follow our curves and the waistband is larger than we’d like, so there’s extra room at the small of the back. Taking apart the waistband of jeans is not impossible (see Take In Jeans), but if you have less than 1˝ (2.5cm) of extra room, all that work isn’t necessary. Instead, this easier method snugs up the jeans in just a few steps. Your jeans waistband will hug more closely and match the great fit of the rest of the pants.

You Will Need:

•Jeans that fit except for a gap at the waistband or center back

•1˝ (2.5cm)-wide braided elastic (Length depends on the waist of the jeans and will be measured in Step 1.)

•Thread in a color that matches the jeans

•Standard sewing supplies

Tip

Use braided elastic rather than knitted elastic because it’s strong enough to pull together thick denim fabric.

 

Take It Up: Shorten a Pencil Skirt

ePub

Take It Up

Shorten a Pencil Skirt

Professional alterations may involve hemming techniques that are beyond the basics techniques used most often in this book. Tailors are extremely skilled with fine details and draping. But with a little patience and precision, we can replicate some of their techniques at home. This hemming project involves some basic tailoring, and it is very useful for those of us who need to hem dressier clothing for the office or an evening out. Just think of the money you’ll save by mastering just a few skills!

You Will Need:

•Too-long, unlined or partially lined skirt (or pants) in suit-weight wool or fine cotton (Use this technique for the outer skirt fabric and refer to Hemming, Method 1 for guidance to hem the detached lining.)

•Fabric pen or chalk

•Standard sewing supplies

•Blind hem foot (recommended)

Get It Done

Refer to Removing Stitches, Method 1 for guidance.

1. Try on the skirt and place pins to mark the desired length.

 

Let It Down: Lengthen a Skirt with a Hem Facing

ePub

Let It Down

Lengthen a Skirt with a Hem Facing

Sometimes you need to make a skirt or pants just a little longer. If the garment has a deep hem (at least 1˝–2˝ [2.5–5cm]), you can do it. I made this miniskirt not so mini by opening up the hem and adding a hem facing on the inside so I could extend the skirt fabric to its fullest length. An inch or two may not sound like a lot, but sometimes it can make all the difference.

You Will Need:

•Too-short skirt (or pants) with a deep hem

•⅛ yard (12cm) coordinating prewashed fabric for inside facing

•Standard sewing supplies

Get It Done

Refer to Removing Stitches for guidance.

Like the facings used at armholes on sleeveless garments or along necklines when there is no collar, a hem facing finishes the edge of the skirt or pant leg with a seamline rather than a folded edge.

1. Using a seam ripper, carefully pick out the original hem from the inside of the skirt. Press open the old hem.

 

Take It In: Take In Jeans

ePub

Take It In:

Take In Jeans

When a pair of jeans or pants is roomy beyond what a belt or a little elastic in the waistband can fix, you may have to do some denim surgery to make them fit the way you want. But it can be done! In this project you’ll learn the steps to take apart structured pants or jeans and put them back together, good as new but an inch (2.5cm) or so tighter.

To change the size of the pants, you can take in the center back of the jeans, as is described here, or you can take in both side seams. I recommend you take in no more than 1˝ (2.5cm) at any one place to avoid an odd bubble shape at the merged bottom of the seam.

This technique does involve a number of steps, but it’s worth it to achieve a custom fit with a favorite pair of jeans or pants. For much-too-large pants you really want to salvage, try to take in the side seams; just make sure you take in the same measurement on both sides. (Taking in both side seams may be necessary if you need to take in more than an inch [2.5cm] or so, but it’s twice the work of taking in only one place—the center back.) Taking the time to do every step correctly will make for a much more flattering pair of jeans!

 

Bonus: Simple Fix for Mending Jeans

ePub

Bonus Tutorial

Simple Fix for Mending Jeans

This tutorial is the most popular one on my blog, and I’ve used this essential technique many, many times on several pairs of jeans. Here’s a summary of my Simple Fix for Mending Jeans, plus some tips on how to use it for particularly tricky holes.

We all have favorite jeans, the pair that is so perfectly worn in that you can’t duplicate the softness and fit—but what happens when you wear a hole through them? It’s time to do a little patchwork.

You Will Need:

•Beloved jeans with a hole

•Thread to match the denim color

•Fusible interfacing—enough to cover holes

•Standard sewing supplies

Get It Done

1. Gather your interfacing. I recommend the nicer polyester Pellon type. Scraps from larger projects work well for this.

2. Turn the jeans inside out and assess the damage. Cut a piece of interfacing large enough to generously cover the hole and place it on top.

3. Set the iron for cotton and fuse the interfacing to the inside of the jeans. Make sure the entire hole is covered. If the jeans have spandex in them or are stretched out around the hole, you may want to pin them to the ironing board when you press the interfacing so you maintain the original shape of the jeans leg.

 

Remake: Infinity Scarf Makeover

ePub

Remake

Infinity Scarf Makeover

This is one of my favorite sewing projects. It’s perfect for both the beginning DIYer and the advanced sewist. While fringed scarves are a great basic by themselves, I am a fan of the more recent trend of infinity scarves that loop around without ends. This project turns an old, tired fringed scarf into a chic infinity scarf and teaches you how to make French seams, a classic sewing technique. French seams are beautiful, quality seams that hide raw edges without the need for a lining or edge stitch.

You Will Need:

•Basic woven scarf

•Standard sewing supplies

Get It Done

1. Fold the scarf in half crosswise, bringing together the fringed sections. If the scarf has a pattern or print that gives it a right and wrong side, make sure you fold together the wrong sides for this seam, which should face inside at this stage. Pin and sew a straight seam ¼˝ (6mm) from the finished edge of the scarf (ignoring the fringe).

 

Embellish/Remake: Colorblock Sweater Makeover

ePub

Embellish/Remake

Colorblock Sweater Makeover

Put together two sweaters or tees to make the best of each of them. I used the sleeves from a sweater I was no longer crazy about, and the body of a sweater I liked but wished had full-length sleeves.

If you like this technique, make several and play around with where you place the colorblocks. How about contrast sweater cuffs, or a colorblock band under the bust, in the middle of the torso, or halfway down the sleeves? You could even experiment by combining three tees!

You Will Need:

•Two sweaters, knit tops, or tees (both should be the same size, gauge, and weight)

•Standard sewing supplies

•Walking foot (recommended)

Get It Done

1. Try on the main body sweater and mark with a pin the place on the sleeve where you want the colorblocking to begin. Place both sweaters flat on a surface. Align the sweaters at the neck edge and both shoulders. The arms, laid flat, should be the same width and size. Press them flat if necessary.

 

Remake: Contrast-Sleeve Tee

ePub

Remake

Contrast-Sleeve Tee

I like the trend of contrasting sleeves, but I’d much rather remake tees I already have than buy new ones. This project is an easy way to transform a basic, boring, short-sleeved crewneck tee into something way more fun. Try this with two loose tees, two lightweight tees, or two stretch tees for different looks and silhouettes. What a clever way to salvage a tee with a great texture or color when part of it gets stained or damaged!

You Will Need:

•Two tees, same size and fit

•Standard sewing supplies

•Walking foot (recommended)

Get It Done

1. On both tees, carefully cut away the sleeves, leaving the serged seam allowances on the body side of the tee.

2. Matching the shoulder seams and underside seams of the sleeve and armhole, pin together the right sides, turning the tee inside out and keeping the sleeve right side out.

3. At the machine, use a walking foot to prevent excess stretching, and stitch just inside the original serged seam on the main tee. (This is probably between ¼˝ [6mm] and ⅜˝ [9mm]).

 

Embellish: Elbow Patch Sweater Makeover

ePub

Embellish

Elbow Patch Sweater Makeover

I often find that the elbows of my fine-gauge sweaters get stretched out with wear, so sometimes I sew on a custom patch detail to prevent damage and add interest. You can do this with a lightweight leather patch on a heavier sweater, or use contrasting fabric. For a classic look, add patches to a jacket that’s getting worn down in the elbows. And think beyond ovals—heart-shaped patches are cute and circles are fun. The one rule is that the patch fabric shouldn’t be much heavier than the sweater fabric or it will pull on the sweater sleeve.

You Will Need:

•Light- or medium-weight sweater, jacket, hoodie, or tee

•Coordinating fabric: about ⅛ yard (12cm) (prewashed)

•HeatnBond Lite Iron-On Adhesive: about ⅛ yard (12cm)

•Standard sewing supplies

Get It Done

1. Try on the sweater and place pins on either side of your elbow to mark where the patch will go. Lay the sweater flat and find the same points on the other arm. Press the sleeve flat.

 

Remake: Riding Pants Makeover

ePub

Remake

Riding Pants Makeover

I have no need for functional equestrian riding pants, but I like their edgy knee-patch styling so I made my own from basic skinny pants. Give old pants a totally new look just by adding patches! Try fun colors and go completely cool and casual, or make the patch from leather for a chic, urban vibe.

Tip

Maneuvering narrow pant legs on the free arm of a sewing machine can be a challenge, so you might want to first try the simpler Elbow Patch Sweater Makeover .

You Will Need:

•Skinny pants

•Fabric: about ⅛ yard (12cm) (prewashed)

•HeatnBond Lite Iron-On Adhesive: ⅛ yard (12cm)

•Standard sewing supplies

Get It Done

1. Cut the approximate shape and size for the knee patches out of the fabric. Mark the patch placement on the knees and inner leg of the pants with fabric pen, chalk, or pins.

2. Cut 2 pieces of a similar size and shape as the fabric out of the HeatnBond. Iron it to the fabric, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Use a pressing cloth or Teflon pressing sheet to prevent a sticky mess on your iron or ironing surface.

 

Refashion: Dress-into-Peplum-Top Makeover

ePub

Refashion

Dress-into-Peplum-Top Makeover

Take a knit minidress that you never wear and transform it into a fitted peplum top. This project is a great way to salvage a dress that’s a little too short, like the gray dress featured on the cover! This is a true refashion. You’ll end up with a comfy peplum top or tee with custom waist and peplum lengths.

You Will Need:

•Straight (no waist seam) dress or tunic (or tee and extra fabric)

•Lingerie elastic or other lightweight elastic

•Fabric pen or chalk

•Standard sewing supplies

Get It Done

Refer to Removing Stitches for guidance.

1. Try on the dress and find where it hits your natural waist (or wherever you want the peplum to begin). Place pins on either side to mark the desired position.

2. Make sure both sides match and mark the waistline of the new top, using a quilting ruler and fabric pen. Cut ½˝ (13mm) below the marked line.

3. Try on the tunic bottom or dress skirt you just cut off. Hold it up around your waistline, and decide where you want the hemline to fall. Place a pin at this point on both sides. Lay the skirt flat, make sure both sides match, and cut ½˝ (13mm) above the desired waistline.

 

Embellish: Contrast-Trim Blazer

ePub

Embellish

Contrast-Trim Blazer

The contrast edge-trimmed blazer look is preppy and fun, and you can do it yourself using any color of double-fold bias tape as the trim and any blazer or jacket you have. You can add this kind of trim to anything, really—imagine it on a lightweight trench coat, a miniskirt, or the legs of shorts. Bias tape comes in many, many colors, so you have lots of possibilities.

You Will Need:

•Blazer, jacket, or other structured garment

•½˝ (13mm) double-fold bias tape in a contrasting color

•Standard sewing supplies (sewing machine recommended, or you could hand sew using a small, neat whipstitch to attach the binding on the outside and the underside)

Get It Done

Refer to Stitch in-the-Ditch for more information.

1. Open up the bias tape and find the slightly narrower half. We’ll call this the “right” side. Pin the right side of the bias tape to the right side of the blazer, beginning at the center back pleat opening and leaving 1˝ (2.5cm) of bias overhanging the leading edge. Pin very carefully at the curves.

 

Refashion: Flared Pants to Skinny Pants

ePub

Refashion

Flared Pants to Skinny Pants

For years I have been transforming bootcut or flared dress pants into matchstick-straight pants. I found I could give old wardrobe staples a second life as flattering and fitted pants that are great for the office or more formal looks. This transformation will make the most out of shopping your closet for brand new pants.

Most trousers are easy to work with since their side seams don’t have topstitching to pick out. If you want to do this project with jeans, see Variation for Jeans.

You Will Need:

•Bootcut, wide-leg, or flared pants (or jeans)

•Standard sewing supplies

•Pinking shears (recommended)

•Fabric pen or chalk (optional)

Get It Done

Refer to Removing Stitches for guidance.

1. Turn the pants inside out and put them on. Place pins along the side seams to mark how fitted you want the legs to be. (Ask a friend to help pin if necessary.) Take equally from the front and back, keeping the old seam allowances centered and folded smoothly together.

 

Bonus: Variation for Jeans

ePub

Refashion

Flared Pants to Skinny Pants

For years I have been transforming bootcut or flared dress pants into matchstick-straight pants. I found I could give old wardrobe staples a second life as flattering and fitted pants that are great for the office or more formal looks. This transformation will make the most out of shopping your closet for brand new pants.

Most trousers are easy to work with since their side seams don’t have topstitching to pick out. If you want to do this project with jeans, see Variation for Jeans.

You Will Need:

•Bootcut, wide-leg, or flared pants (or jeans)

•Standard sewing supplies

•Pinking shears (recommended)

•Fabric pen or chalk (optional)

Get It Done

Refer to Removing Stitches for guidance.

1. Turn the pants inside out and put them on. Place pins along the side seams to mark how fitted you want the legs to be. (Ask a friend to help pin if necessary.) Take equally from the front and back, keeping the old seam allowances centered and folded smoothly together.

 

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