Saturday, 30 August 2014

A little scarf can go a long way!

I make clothes, cushion covers, purses and bags all the time but I honestly cannot remember the last time I went into a fabric shop and bought a length of fabric to make something!

Although many charity shops have been picked clean and all the best stuff has ended up in fancy vintage shops now, there’s always a basket of scarves, and you can make a simple garment out of a couple of these. Scarves come in different sizes, from small  “pocket squares” to sarongs, but a common size is  just under 70 cm square, and these are ideal.

The weight of the scarves dictates the success of the garment. Your fabric your scarves are made of needs to be the same weight  – although not necessarily of the same type. If the scarves are very old, check that they have not thinned through wear or exposure to the light, or the fabric may tear. Look for moth damage or cigarette burns – if you are being economical with fabric there is no margin for wastage. Finally, if you are not sure you’ll have enough fabric, buy an extra one to use for facings (the linings inside the garment that make sure the neckline  and armholes lie flat).

I find my sewing patterns in charity shops and fleamarkets. Originally I bought them for the illustrations of the envelopes. Go by the measurement, not the dress size as sizing has changed considerably over the years.

What particularly I like about these scarves as a source of dressmaking fabric are the prints. When choosing scarves to re-make have a good look at the print and, as well as working out how the colours and prints are going to go together with two or more scarves, consider the placement of the print. As these scarves are not designed to be worn flat, rather they would be tied to go around the neck or folded to be worn as a headscarf, the print is often more dense around the edges than in the centre. This dictates where you will put your pattern pieces.

For this shell top (below) I wanted to use the areas where there were more leaves and to incorporate the border and the rolled edges of the scarf rather than hide them in the seams, so I put the side seams of my pattern piece right up against the edge of the scarf. The rolled edge prevents fraying and means I can get away with the tiniest of seams. You might like to use the zip foot on your sewing machine to sew tightly up against the rolled edge or baste the seam first (this is a good idea anyway as the silks and rayon fabrics usually used for scarves are slippery to sew).

As a rough guide, two 70 cm scarves can make a sleeveless top or a simple skirt, or a dress or a shirt for a small child. The only things you will need to buy are a lightweight zip and a small amount of iron–on interfacing (although I often skip this and sew the facings down, pressing them first to make sure they lie flat).

Two smaller scarves can make a cushion cover. These are, on average, 40 cm square. All you need to do is sew in a zip then sew around the remaining three edges. You can get away with using lighter weight silk scarves than you could for clothing if you back them with iron-on interfacing first. You can also use damaged scarves by making a patchwork of the good bits of different ones.

Any offcuts that might possibly be left after all that make great linings for purses and make-up bags.

Silk screen prints on upcycled  wallpaper and fabrics are available at her Etsy shop:

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