Sewing Project 1 - Customising a Shirt
I've been promising for some time to post step-by-step guides to my sewing projects, and here is my first challenge. I bought a shirt from the £1 rail of a charity shop, in order to create a Visual Kei style top, at minimal cost.
First of all, I need to say that I'm not really very good at sewing. I have no idea how to follow a pattern, my stitching isn't very neat, and I have yet to have an encounter with a sewing machine that hasn't ended in disaster. I have never had a sewing lesson - I taught myself out of necessity when I realised that the sort of clothes I wanted to wear simply couldn't be found in the shops, even if I'd had the money to buy them, so I would have to make them myself. Somehow or other, it seems to work . . . .
So here is the shirt as it was when I got it home. Well worth the £1 investment! The things I liked about it were its length - it came down almost to mid-thigh when I tried it on - and its colour. Black! You can't go wrong with black! What I disliked about it was virtually everything else - mundane design and details, and some folksy beige-brown buttons that I particularly detested.
Ideas and inspirations - I spend a lot of time perusing my precious collection of Japanese fashion magazines, and my even more precious collection of Japanese music magazines. I get a lot of ideas for costumes from these. I don't copy anything directly, but I do find plenty of inspiration . . . .
The first step was to cut and shape the lower half into separate panels. It was originally very tight on the hips. The panels make it more comfortable, more interesting to look at, and means that it can be worn over a full skirt.
The next step was to bind the edges with contrasting bias binding. Most of my costumes are black with red, which means that any top can be combined with any skirt, to create a different look. The bias binding was the only thing I had to buy for this project - 30p a metre from the local haberdashery shop.
Then I shaped and bound the sleeves in the same way. Stitching the bias binding was a time-consuming job, and not particularly interesting. If you look carefully, you can see just how bad some of the stitching is . . . I think I listened to every note Syndrome ever recorded while doing this part . . . But it was worth the effort.
Things start to get more interesting now. I sewed D-rings on tape into position on the back so that I could lace it. The lacing makes for an interesting visual detail, but most importantly, it improves the fit.
And I finally got rid of those vile buttons! In their place, I have put old brass regimental buttons. I found a big stash of these in a charity shop a couple of years ago, and I've been using them ever since. I'm always looking out for things that might be useful in costume-making, even if I've got no idea what to use them for at the time.
This is the reason why what I euphemistically refer to as my 'Sewing Box' is actually two cupboards, the space under the desk, the space at the top of the wardrobe, several boxes, four or five tines, and a big heap of stuff in the corner of the room . . . .
Shiny buttons! You can never have too many shiny buttons! I've added them onto the panels and the sleeves, as well . . .
I didn't care for the breast-pockets, but to remove them would have damaged the fabric. I found a cross in the 'Sewing Box' to go on one, and on the other I've pinned this mysterious insignia. I haven't been able to identify it - I asked my friends on Facebook, and the general feeling was that it's probably an Eastern Bloc Soviet Era Airforce badge. I like the design - a bit Art Deco and a bit Steampunk . . .
And finally, here is the finished version, front and back views. The cost of the shirt and the bias binding together came to about £3.50. It looks very good when worn - weather permitting, I think I'll wear it to a music festival in Ombersley at the weekend . . . .