Fix it! WAG skirt and lace undershirt

I started to learn to do proper textile stuff last year. And only now I’m finally starting to grasp – in tiniest baby steps – the basics of garment construction and textile properties. So this is a section of ‘look what I did to make this garment work better for me’ or ‘…to prolong its lifespan’. This post is a double feature of a skirt I had to adjust due to reality of bodies (ehm, too tight waist) and a little blouse/undershirt that had been dangerously worn out, i.e. more wears could push it over the edge of unfixable.

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WAG skirt

Careful readers of this blog know my ambiguous relationship with the WAG set all to well. It was an impulse buy last November in South Africa (see the money report here) and it has taken 10 months to finally tame it. Apart from loud print and attention-seeking (at least in places overtaken by the casual revolution) cut, the skirt was held above the natural waistline by a tight rubber band… which worked well when trying it on and walking upright, but became impossibly tight when sitting for a while or after a meal.

The original waist with rubber holding together the back:

So in consultation with my sewing guru Carmen at Opció Taller, we decided she suggested and I trusted her expertise to take out the rubber and then see if the waist needed any taking in afterwards. It was pick-pick-pick time to unravel all the seams that contained the waistband…

We discovered that the un-scrunched waistline was a bit too wide, and – (a) to avoid redoing the whole piece, (b) because the patterned fabric is very generous with these kind of shortcuts, and (c) because I was eager to wear this skirt already (before the season ends) – opted for just making two tucks in the back part of the waistband, in line with the original tucks of the skirt part. You can see them if you squint a bit:

I still have to go over the opened part with a zigzag stitch, but the skirt has been in happy rotation ever since I fixed the waist. The new waist is not pushing on of my ribs or any vital organs and it’s lower, leading to an unexpected thing: I am baring my midriff when wearing the whole set now. If before I had the ‘dress effect’, now it’s ‘look, my tummy’ effect. I’m hoping to be channeling some of this Sartorialist attitude, although some Swap bloopers showed that it can also be quite ‘unflattering’. Oh, well, I just keep telling the ‘you’re fat’ monsters off with ‘I’ll eat you too’… As now I can eat all I want while wearing this skirt! And it has pockets.

There is always the ‘risk’ that I would lose weight or gain even more, but having done this fix, I know that there are options to both take it in more or let it out. So this skirt is here to stay, #30wears and counting.

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The lace undershirt

The jury is still out on if this is a proper garment or a replica of an undergarment from 100 years ago… I got it in 2012 from my mom who has a penchant for little white blouses, and have been wearing it as a modesty garment in winter (who is the genius that keeps producing heavy jersey dresses with deep decolletages?) and as the lightest possible blouse during Barcelona summers. The fabric composition tag has been cut off long ago, but it has a very cotton-y feel and is suboptimal as a winter undergarment because of that as the sweat just stays there and makes me cold. Despite that, this little garment has a solid place in my wardrobe fulfilling a double function, and the possibility to wear the purple jersey dress with dignity hinges on it.

In summer:

In winter:

So imagine my horror when sometime this spring I discovered that the right armpit was falling apart, and I couldn’t think of a solid solution to the problem, as just stitching it over would not stop the tearing:

My ideas revolved around patching it on the inside and doing a lace applique on top but the garment is so light that anything I could imagine felt too much and closer to destroying it than resuscitating… Enter Carmen, my fairy godmother of sewing at Opció Taller! Yes, all the fix series are dedicated to her because I wouldn’t have achieved this level of satisfaction without her guidance. I would have either fucked it up on my own or given it to the fast sewing shop ladies who don’t necessarily care about my stuff . After a session of brainstorming about lace patches, their placement and possibilities to dye lace in black tea to get the right shade of this weird off-white, Carmen found just the right thing in one of her magical notions boxes: stand alone lace flowers in exactly the shade I needed.

Then it was my first contact with interfacing fabric (to secure the hole before darning over it), many little stitches and ta-dah! It’s now a cute demure detail nobody will really notice, the blouse has been saved and I have learnt a couple of new tricks. A complete win.


And the whole outfit! You cannot see either of the interventions, but I know that they are there, and having been able to make both these garments wearable again fills me with pride and satisfaction.

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Have you done any life-giving fixes recently? Made any garments? Or is there something you would like to fix and don’t know how to?

Fix it! Liisa bag and swap t-shirt

I started to learn to do proper textile stuff last year. And only now I’m finally starting to grasp – in tiniest baby steps – the basics of garment construction and textile properties. So this is a section of ‘look what I did to make this garment work better for me’ or ‘…to prolong its lifespan’. This post is a double feature of a garment that was technically perfectly fine but didn’t feel right and a basic 3-minute fix of a jersey fail that happens all the time.

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Liisa bag + Ezra W. Smith embroidery

In the beginning of 2018 Liisa made a gift for me: this little cross-body bag! Nice size, careful design, sturdy construction… and a print of a minion and Pusheen. Which showed her intimate knowledge of my Facebook sticker favorites and overestimation of my desire to express those in public. But I wanted to wear it! Reason 1: my dear friend made it! Reason 2: my only small bag here in Barcelona has chain strap that stains light garments, so a bag that would not entail sink washing my tops after every wear could be nice.


Also, the very technique of printing gave an impression of not lasting. Marina wore it for the week she was in Barcelona in July and the subsequent wash left it looking like this. I also have to admit that I didn’t care if this applique would be destroyed… because I had a plan.

Being an active insta-stalker of Ezra W. Smith I saw an opportunity to spend my hard-earned euros on embroidery by her. Also, I could explain my wish to spend 100€ on an 13 x 15 cm patch with #girlssupportinggirls. Best cure for buyer’s guilt is to wrap it in feminism! We talked back and forth about the content of the embroidery (carps, foxes and great tits were among the options) and settled on an owl. This was the photo she worked from, and this is the result:

As we had agreed that the most reasonable way to do this was for her to make a patch and to me to sew it on, I got some practice at invisible stitches. My initial plan was to create a definite border with bias ribbon or something (like this), but my sewing guru, Carmen from Opció Taller, convinced me that such artwork needed the least intervention possible. She was right, and here it is, complete with an ironic Tate Modern pin that says ‘oil painting’, as it should be!

The only weird thing about this endeavor has been that just around when I was carrying out this transaction, Liisa launched hEdgy Crafts doing, among other, embroidery, even of owls. I have already asked for forgiveness for having intervened her artwork… but the uneasiness stays. But at least now I have an easy-wear cross-body bag. While I’m not planning to put it in the washing machine ever again, the embroidery is keeping up very well so far, especially taking into account my usual carelessness with things.

So here you have before and after:

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And here is the little basic jersey hole, as promised. My February swap t-shirt got a hole and I did my best to gather the sides and contain it. The internet is full of how-tos, here’s just two of them: How to Repair a Hole in a T-Shirt and Fix It Friday – Holes in Jersey Material.

Before:

After:

After (reverse):

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Have you done any life-giving fixes recently? Made any garments? Or is there something you would like to fix and don’t know how?

#whatiwore 2018w19 + Sunday links

A random update: I made my first sewn garment! I had knitted, crocheted and customized before, but this is a new milestone. And even brand new this garment already has a story. My little South African top needed an additional and more neutral bottom, then my friend Liisa taught me my sewing machine basics, my friend Julie invited me to take from her fabric stash whatever I wanted, and Carmen from Opció Taller accompanied me through all the troubleshooting this supposedly easy project needed. The whole precision thing is something I’m still working on, being accustomed that the code I write for my little statistics at work is basically endlessly tweakable and reiterations don’t leave trace. As far as I don’t show the inside of this skirt to my mom, we are all happy and set!

And now the brain nom-noms:

How could you resist a merge of Japanese shapes with African prints? Why would you? Why hadn’t this happened before? Cameroonian artist and Japanese designer collab for stunning Kimono line. (Hat tip to Sanjukta for this one!)

Just a brief reminder on what’s the problem with faux fur. In case you were wondering.

When reading about several African countries trying to forbid the import of second-hand clothing last year, I didn’t know that China did exactly the same thing in the 1990s (and now they are doing the same with our plastics). About the impact of that policy on the local industry, The State of Fashion Design in China.

And just to rub in how far I am from the actual design and fashion vanguard, turns out that there is a whole color thing going on: Why Millennial Pink Refuses to Go Away, Why Are We So Obsessed With Millennial Pink? There’s A Scientific Explanation For Everything and Move Over, Millennial Pink — There’s a New Sheriff in Town. I live truly oblivious to this stuff… As an extra bonus, of course, the ‘scientific’ explanation boils down to ‘we don’t really know but we can quite confidently blame late capitalism for everything’.

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Do you make garments? If so, how do you then deal with the intimate knowledge of all the imperfections? Or is it that the pride of having done it compensates for all frustrations and suboptimal seams?

#FashionRevolution Fix it! workshop + easy fixes

My Fashion Revolution week fortnight this year consists of two events: an experimental small-scale fix workshop and the swap Nº6. You are still on time to put the swap in your agenda (and you already know the drill) but the fix workshop was something new.

Stemming from my own limited skills in fixing and mending, seeing it as a generational problem mostly (hi, fast fashion, bye, upkeep skills!) and knowing that practice makes perfect, I simply announced a Saturday afternoon when up to ten people could come together at the back of our Ateneu and try to fix their garments. It wasn’t a course and there were 0 powerpoint presentations. The setup included wine, tea, cake, and an opportunity to show your holes and unraveled seams to others, get some input on how to fix in and give it a go.

I was very happy to have my favorite social-sciences-person-turned-textiles-person Julie to host the workshop with me. Her knowledge of materials and dyes and passion for creative fixing (+ she introduced the rest of us to the notion of sashiko and with India Flint!) did so much to ground and structure my enthusiasm. At the end it felt like a little tea party in a parallel dimension enjoying the sorority and fixing the world one stitch at the time.

The concept was to bring only simple (we are just starting here, you know) manually (not to hassle with sewing machines) fixables, and the list was pretty much the expected. Here you have the issues we came across and suggestions what to do about them; these are a mix of the very basics and a bit advanced that we didn’t tackle this time but there were questions about the possibility of doing it:

Unraveled seams: 1, 2, 3.

Holes in jersey: 1, 2.

Holes in socks: 1, 2.

The typical jeans inseam problem: 1, 2, 3.

Putting in bra-strap fixers: 1.

Making a slit: 1, 2.

Hemming jeans: 1, 2.

Changing the shape of a pair of jeans: 1.

And to dabble just a bit into creative fixing, here you have FashRev suggestions to embroider, put patches or pom-poms on your garments to hide stains or rips or just to refresh them.

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The take-away message? Almost all garments are fixable, just google it! The internets are full of kind people showing how to fix anything. Especially if you let go of the idea of returning the garment to its initial state and think about fixing as giving it a loving upgrade instead, the possibilities are endless. And I have a feeling that this won’t be our last fixing event, so stay tuned.

Have you fixed anything recently? Do you aim for perfection, for creative expression or for just getting it done?

#100wears: Trench

#100wears is the most beloved garment section where I show off the longevity of items I’ve worn at least 100 times and urge to elevate the rather low #30wears aspiration. Basically, a love song, a poem, a “there are some garments so good I can’t stop wearing them”… My Zara hand-me-down trench is one of those.

October 2012 – Montreal, Canada.

Facebook suggests that I started wearing it in spring 2010. However, my memory is of first cleaning it out of my mother’s wardrobe, deciding that it’s not a garment for me and passing it on to my aunt. Then finding it again in her summer house, trying it on and going like “Oh, I think this could work after all…” So the more precise dates could be passing it on in 2008 and reclaiming it in 2009. It took me a long time to really get into it, though. Only after moving to Barcelona and downsizing my overall wardrobe in 2013-2014 it has become a basic staple for my Mediterranean winters. Up to a point when a friend recently hollered at me across the street because “I’d recognize your trench anywhere”.

That time in October 2010 when I dressed up like bleach. Stupid word games and strategic placement were involved. Salamanca, Spain.

December 2015 – Barcelona, Spain.

The cold season here is so mild that I have given up on my Latvian upbringing and C’s objections that ‘this is not a coat’. It’s not! But this is not a real winter either. So my winter coats live in Rīga and Barcelona gets a layered trench. The trench is size XL (Zara sizing, go figure!), so it drapes nicely and there is space for a sweater under it. Layering is how regulate it: thick wool for the coldest of them (~5ºC or so; never below zero, mind you) and cotton-poly blends or whatever is going around for warmer days.

The outer shell is 51% polyester, 39% cotton and 10% nylon with a 100% polyester lining. It does hold wind at bay, especially when bicycle commuting. And when it comes to bicycling, the length also helps to keep my waist well covered, my skirts together and away from the brakes. Also, the color is perfect for an occasional dirt and oil stain. It’s not a small thing, think that Levi’s has a specific line for bicycle commuters that are ready to pay premium for those little practical adjustments.

February and March 2018 – Barcelona, Spain.

Despite being fast fashion and made in China, this trench has gone through its 120+ wears with very few minor fixes. Some buttons have been lost and replaced, one of the metallic holes for fastening the sleeves fell out in late 2017 and the belt buckle finally gave away in early 2018. As these moving details had been a bit of a nuisance for wearing – both belt and the little ‘sleeve belts’ kept moving, opening, crumpling – I decided to put them as I wanted and pin them down! After replacing the sleeve thingy (0.80€ at my local cobbler), I just sewed fixed both the belt and the sleeves, those are the little orange details in the photo below. Now the belt is always straight, the sleeve details are never suddenly open and flapping in the wind, and I use the belt without a buckle – I just make a knot!



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Is there a type of garment that you have keep wearing throughout the years? What pieces easily reach #100wears in your wardrobe? What are the items that you have doubted first and grown ‘into them’ after? Are there any basic fixes that you are very proud of?