Mending and amending

I don’t do sewing alterations or repairs for other people.

What I do do is help friends, and sometimes this takes the form of a bit of sewing. A friend in my tai chi class recently lost her father. She brought me one of his old shirts, and asked if it was possible to alter/tailor it so that she could wear it. She brought me a couple of her own sleeveless shirts to show what she wanted. Now, my friend is tall and sort of medium-female-sized. Her father wore XXL shirts. It wasn’t just a nip and tuck.

So, it wasn’t a mend. It was amend. I made a paper pattern for the arm-scye from one of her shirts. I removed the pockets from the front and repositioned them (you can see where they were, but it’s not too obvious, and will hopefully improve still more after washing) because their original position would fall somewhere under her armpit. I took measurements off her shirts and applied them. I created a couple of bust darts to give it some shape. (If she wants more shaping after she’s tried it, I’ll put in a couple of back darts.)

Before closing the side seams, I stitched the pockets and darts, closed and overlocked the side seams and then bound the armholes. Finally, I trimmed and hemmed the bottom of the shirt. Job done.

She’d also asked if I thought there’d be enough fabric trimmed off for a cushion cover. Sleeves use a surprisingly large amount of fabric, so I was fairly confident something could be done. I stitched the sleeves lower edge to lower edge with an embroidery stitch, lining up the stripes as much as possible. There was enough to create a 16½ inch square, which takes a standard cushion pad. I backed and bound it with an offcut of rust homespun, and used the last few scraps to create a hexie flower for the quilted front.

And then, while I was folding up the shirts she’d lent me, I noticed that one of them was looking a bit battered. It was pretty fabric, navy blue with a white sprigged print, and was clearly a well-loved but now rather the worse for wear garment. I took a closer look, and decided it was worth mending.

The shoulders are rather sun-faded and in places there were holes worn in the fabric. I hunted through my scraps and found a strip of navy with a white spot. It didn’t exactly match, but it did go with… I made a small pseudo-yoke for the top of the shoulders on the shirt back, which covered both the worst of the sun fading and the holes.

The armholes were in really bad shape, both frayed and in places detaching entirely from the rest of the shirt. I snipped off the entire armhole bindings and replaced them with new bias binding. I didn’t have navy, but felt that the white worked. The armholes will now sit a little further in on the shoulders, but they’re whole and tidy. I’ve had to add new fabric to old, so the mending won’t last forever, but I think it’ll give her another year or so of wearing enjoyment.

I hope it’ll be a nice surprise for her.


42 thoughts on “Mending and amending

  1. kymlucas says:

    What a nice friend you are, and I’m sure she will appreciate your efforts, not only because she’s going through a tough time, but also because your results are always so splendid.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m pleased with the remake of her dad’s shirt. The mended one will, I hope, make her smile because it’s unexpected, but the shirt was a bit far gone for a really satisfying mend!

  2. Moira says:

    What a nice thing to do for your friend. The results are wonderful and I’m sure will be a comfort to her.

  3. nanacathy2 says:

    Wonderful, she is sure to like the transformation.

  4. claire93 says:

    what a wonderful friend you are!

    • katechiconi says:

      Normally, I wouldn’t hesitate to refuse, but in the circumstances, not only would it make her feel better, but it was an excellent way to repurpose a perfectly good shirt. I’d do it again in similar circumstances, now I know it’s not that hard.

  5. What a creative and tender thing you’ve done.

    • katechiconi says:

      It was all her idea, my hands were just the tools. I’m glad to have been of service – which is not to say I’m now going to start a business doing the same thing!

  6. magpiesue says:

    I admire your mending/altering skills. I don’t have the patience for clothing construction (or reconstruction as the case may be). I do have a favorite linen shirt with a hole I’m contemplating with an eye to repairing it somehow though. That cushion cover turned out spectacular!

  7. My family says I have a PHD in mending…I suspect you do too! A kind thing to do for a grieving friend!

    • katechiconi says:

      Yes, I’m afraid it’s ingrained. I mend everything at least once, often twice and occasionally three times before the thing eventually falls apart. My mother taught me well…

  8. What an extremely kind gesture, to adapt the first shirt and then to take on some extra mending. I wouldn’t have enjoyed that kind of job at all.

    • katechiconi says:

      I can’t say it was exactly enjoyable, but it was very satisfying to go from a huge unwearable and a torn unwearable, to two perfectly serviceable shirts. Oh, and achieve a cushion cover from the scrap!

  9. 💝 U never cease to make my heart smile. 💝

  10. So many things to love here. What wonderful repurposing you have done, and that your friend wore her shirt so well and so long… is impressive. Her new-old shirts are sure to much loved and worn.

    • katechiconi says:

      I can’t bear to see loved garments get thrown away. I have two thin, soft, comfy and rather faded shirts which have now torn irrevocably across the back and under the arms. They’ve both been mended twice. I’m now eyeing them and wondering what to do with the fabric…

  11. gwenniesgardenworld says:

    You are soooo sweet !

  12. Emmely says:

    I am sure she’ll like it!

  13. anne54 says:

    What a good idea to make her Dad’s shirt into something she can wear. She will feel as though her Dad is still with her. And you have done such a special job to help her carry his memory.

    • katechiconi says:

      And that shirt was very good quality, strong fabric and well constructed. I think she’ll be able to wear it for years. I hated the idea that its alternate fate was to go to the op shop.

  14. Marty K says:

    You’re a good egg, Love! ❤️❤️ Such a meaningful amend and mend. I think the cushion cover is my favorite — it’s the hexie! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing this story and please pass on my condolences to your friend. I can imagine how comforting these pieces will be in the days and years to come. I wish I had thought to do something like this with some of my parents’ favorite clothes.

    • katechiconi says:

      Aww, thanks! I’m especially pleased because there was so little waste. There are a couple of pieces about 3 inches by 2 which I’m returning to her in case she ever needs to patch it.

  15. That is so kind of you… I’m sure she will be delighted.

  16. what a wonderful thing to have achieved. Absolutely the best example of #ReuseIsBetterThanRecycle . Hugs

  17. bearmkwa says:

    Sometimes the best gift is in mending something old.

  18. cedar51 says:

    A glorious “amend” on all accounts…hope you will tell us what your friend thinks/says when the goods are returned to her!

    • katechiconi says:

      She loved them! There were a few tears in her eyes about her Dad’s shirt, but mostly of happiness, and she was so pleased about the repair of the blue shirt, which she’d mentally abandoned as unwearable.

  19. I have bought old shirts at thrift shops to make quilts out of — I made one by sewing the shirt fabric strips to foundation muslin, and then I also used wool batting, and the quilt turned out way too heavy. So I will probably not ever make another one of those. But I can’t get rid of the extra shirts, because I want to make myself sleeveless shirts out of them. So this post will be very helpful!

    • katechiconi says:

      If I might offer a hint, pin any bust dart before you cut down the side seam, or if you’re taking it from the arm-scye, before you reshape the arm-scye. Shirts can make lovely quilts, but as you’ve noted, not if you foundation piece them onto yet more fabric or use wool batting! Simple piecing and bamboo or cotton work well. This one is my favourite: (

      • Yes, I have that Kaffe Fassett book with that design, which is the main reason I decided to buy thrift shop shirts. I would have been better off just buying the yardage or a kit, I think!

  20. rutigt says:

    Your friend must love this! What a great idea to sew a hexie in the middle of the cushion cover!

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