how I let out a pair of tuxedo trousers

Well this is going to be a bit embarrassing for someone…

Last week, The Man and I were going out with a friendly couple. It was my best friend’s birthday, and she shrieked ecstatically when I suggested, months earlier, that we go to Herr Kettner’s Kabaret to celebrate. We immediately decided to dress up to the nines for it. With a background in theatre and neither of us being particularly shy, we kindly suggested to the men that they might like to take the gentlemanly way out and wear their tuxedos. Both complied very happily. I have to say, I’m completely smitten with mine, he looks _so_ ridiculously handsome in a tux! You’ll get to see if you agree later.

First, the alteration!

The night before, The Man was smart enough to try on his tux and see how it fitted. He looked dashing, and immensely uncomfortable. Then he tried sitting down. I feared for his mirrored wardrobe. Since the last time he’d worn it, he’d clearly had a few too many late evenings at work and heavy dinners followed by cake. (mmm… cake….) With Kettners Kabaret being in less than 24 hours though… this was a disaster.

So I looked at the trousers. They seemed designed to be altered. There was a single straight seam running up the seat of the trouser. No belt loops, nothing complicated.

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So The Man had a few options:

  1. Wear the tux as it is and risk embarrassment while being seriously uncomfortable
  2. Wear something else (but at last minute, what??)
  3. Take the tux to be altered somewhere near work (but where? And can they turn it around in half a day?)
  4. Go buy a new pair of tuxedo trousers and hope the black colour matches
  5. Give me the trousers, let me alter them, and I can bring him the tux to work before we go out

For some strange reason, despite a mild googling session for options 3 and 4, he was brave enough to go for option 5.

I’ve replaced a zip in a man’s trousers before. The front zip. It was a royal pain and incredibly fiddly, but the trousers were as good as new. And I have altered about 3 pairs of my own trousers (the devils had belt loops in the back, I cheated and removed them) when I lost weight. I was never going to throw away bell-bottomed blue-grey waist-high trousers! Nor navy blue velvet boot cut ones! Never in a million years! So they went from a size 14 (UK) to a size 10 (UK). So I’d done it before. But a tuxedo? On the day of the party? Jesus no!

Thankfully, I was working from home on the Friday, so I logged on a bit earlier than I would have otherwise, and used the more generous lunch break that earned me to do the alteration. It did take about 60-90 minutes, but I was going slowly, I was way too scared to mess something up.

So here it is, step by step. And I should warn you. I cheated.

First off, open the seam up. There were some elastics from the elasticated adjustable waistband that you’ll find in all good men’s trousers. I had to snip off the seams attaching those before being able to open up the seam properly flat.

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This is the seam all flattened and open.

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This is where the cheating happened. A professional seamstress would most likely have unpicked the seat seam first, then reassembled the garment. I, however, am not a pro. I’m an engineer. So I went for the duct-tape solution. I used the existing seam as my “tacks”. Instead of needing to align the fabric and pin it or tack it in place, I used the old seam for that, and just ran the sewing machine with a new seam just next to the end of the seat. See how beautifully made the trouser seams are? Love the finishing! This is part of how I could tell they were built to be altered.

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Then I unpicked the old seam. That took a _while_. I had to be very careful not to unpick the inner (new) seam at the same time!

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When that was done, I had to pull the elastics through a bit more, and re-attach them to the reinforced panels of the waistband. That was a bit tricky, as you don’t have much clearance to sew around that spot.

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The last step remains undocumented, and involved doing a few little stitches to secure the waistband in a folded position.

I also don’t have a photo of the trousers from the back or anything. I didn’t think of it. They looked flawless though! You wouldn’t have been able to tell that anything had been done to them!

And since I’ve been so terrible at showing you the trousers, maybe this will make up for it. I’m not shy by any means, and like I said neither are my friends. So here is a photo of the four of us, at Kettner’s Kabaret, to whom I also dedicate this post. Without that insane absinthe-soaked, burlesque-dancing, ukulele-singing, vintage photography-taking night, this blog post would never have happened. Well. Not in June, in any case.
I tried embedding the photo i wanted using Pinterest but their code didn’t work here. So here is the link to the photo if you want to see where it’s hiding in my pinterest boards.

And here is the photo itself.

The Man looks happy, doesn’t he?

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Replacing handbag lining

After my misadventure with the TopShop flimsy lining, I decided to re-line my handbag. Why? Because it’s cute, and looks small, but fits an amazing quantity of things, including an A5-sized page-a-day yearly moleskine diary. Yes, the big fat black one. And a massive wallet. And all my other clutter necessities. So. Here’s how I did it.

  1. Remove old lining. I left a 1.5cm “fringe” of the old one, as I wasn’t sure my machine can stitch through leather. I sewed most of the new lining onto that “fringe”, and am considering cross-stitching on top of it to a) make a prettier edging and b) ensure the new lining stays on by securing it to the leather.
  2. Cut piece of new lining wall (with possible 2nd piece for reinforcement)
  3. Cut pieces for pockets
  4. Put pockets together (gives a better finish)
  5. Affix pockets to the bag.
  6. Add zippered pocket if you wish (the best tutorial for that is from u-hanblog)
  7. Sew new lining to the bag, going all around the edge
  8. At this time I also stitched the “TopShop real leather” tag onto the lining. Thought it’d be a cute touch and memento of where the bad lining came from.
  9. Sew down the side to form a tube and close the lining up
  10. Cut the bottom piece(s). I used a second piece to reinforce this too, even if it won’t be under much strain.
  11. Sew the bottom piece as far as you can (from the back, to get a clean finish) using the machine.
  12. Finish sewing the bottom piece by hand (good side of fabric to you). I was rushed (wanted to go out in 10 min and use it) and did it very quickly and it’s not pretty, but you know what? It’s at the bottom of the bag, in the darkest recesses of my daily clutter-carrier, and I don’t really care 🙂

I also chose to take this opportunity to add a magnetic closure at the top of the bag, as none had been provided and the bag was infuriatingly left gaping at all times. In a city like London, this is an open invitation for peeking, and less desireably, pick-pocketing too. Adding such closures is the easiest thing in the world, and I recommend it to anyone who has trouble closing their bags. Mind you, you do need access to the space behind the lining in order to secure it in place, but a small opening should suffice.

Coat revamp

As everyone can tell by glancing at any thermometer, or just the trees and sky, winter is upon us. The jumpers invade drawers previously occupied by light-coloured tops, you trade your light jacket for a winter coat, and sandals for shoes and boots. In my case, however, it’s not quite as simple as that. I’ve lost more than 16kg since last winter, and so my winter coat doesn’t fit me. I’ve gone from a size 14 to  size 8 (or 10, depends on the store) and now i look like I’ve borrowed my coat from a relative. Being insanely bored of it after 3 winters doesn’t help much either. Well, it’s 2 coats really, but this one I’ve had nearly 3 years now. So I decided to alter it.

Originally, it’s a very straight charcoal grey coat with 4 buttons down the front and a little black fur collar. I haven’ tbeen able to locate any “before” pictures though… And I didn’t think of taking any before altering it. When I say altering… Given that it’s my only coat and I seem unable to find a good coat on the market, I didn’t want to cut into it or undo any seams. So this had to be a superficial alteration. I went with sticking a zipper on top. Something I saw on another coat on the high street, and I thought looked quite nice & funky.

Coat revamp. Neck detailI bought 1 long zipper, a 15cm one, and two 13cm ones. I took off the coat’s buttons (they were almost falling off anyway after 3 winters’ worth of wear), sewed the button holes shut, and applied a nice big zipper down the front, while pulling it tighter to get a slight nearly-double-breasted kind of overlay for improved warmth.

 

 

 

Coat revamp. BackThe medium zipper went on the back, like a mini-belt, again pulling the coat a tiny bit to cinch the waist a little more and give it shape, from the tube-like thing it was. The 2 smaller zippers will go on the sleeves for decoration and  a bit of narrowing, biker-style. That way less air will go up them, and I won’ t be as cold, either!!

I’m quite proud of the alteration, as now it almost looks like I have a new coat, and I have to admit that it’s quite a bit warmer. I’m surprised by how much.The alteration was made very easy by the dressmaker’s doll. I put the coat on it, pinned the lapels into their new position, and hand-sewed the zipper on. Easy peasy. Really!

Coat revampI’m glad to have done it. My ambition was/is to make myself a winter coat, but I have been unable to find fabric.

So now I’m looking for coats at various places, but nothing seems to be warm enough. HOBBs has good quality, but at exorbitant prices (above £300), REISS has a beautiful design, but at £300 for something with 60% wool and no cashmere, they have to be kidding. And everywhere else has rubbish fabrics. Except Laura Ashley. There are 4 coats there that I’d consider wearing. They go for £150 each, and are 70% wool, 20% polyester and 10% cashmere, which is a great combo for an everyday coat. Hope I can figure this out before it gets too cold!! Any tips either for coat fabric or actual warm winter coats are welcome! I am considering going to an outlet mall. Has anyone been?

Birthday dress: take 2

Birthday dress

Birthday dress

It’s done! It’s done! I’ve shrunk the dress!!

And a HUGE thank you goes out to Dana for lending me the amazing dressmaker’s doll, without which this would not have been possible.

I have managed to achieve a brilliantly snug fit, without it being too tight or too loose. And for the kind of fabric I’ve used (fairly stiff) this is exactly what is needed for the garment to sit properly and look like it’s made for me. I’m SO happy!!

Tonight is a double birthday party. My boyfriend and a good friend are celebrating together tonight. And in order to look nice, I decided to wear my birthday dress. Thing is, from April (my birthday) to october (these birthdays) I’ve lost 10kg! So I had to take out quite a bit of fabric.

Mini tutorial. How to “shrink” a dress: With the dressmaker’s doll, this was a piece of cake. I put the dress on the doll inside-out, and using some white (or any contrasting colour) thread, I basted (hand-stitched with very loosele-spaced stitches) down each side, evening out the excess fabric into the new, slimmer shape. Before going in with the thread I used pins to make sure i’d block out the fabric evenly on each side (instead of pulling it all to one side!). Worked like a charm.

I then tried on the dress (right side out) to make sure I’d gotten everything (I had) and sat at the machine to put in 2 long seams down each side of the dress. Easy peasy. I also decided to remove the side slits I’d put in, and to re-hem it at a different length. So I sewed all the way down (inside of the slits, so they were cut away with the excess fabric), flipped the dress, put it back on the doll and hemmed it. Simple stuff. And the result is in the picture. A gorgeously fitted dress!! I may post pictures of it after the party tonight.

Let the good times begin!!