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.