Refashioning Clothes: How To Design & Sew Easy Zero Waste “One New From Two Old”
By Mariana Kirova
If you want to start refashioning clothes today, the zero waste design technique is your way to go.
It will effectively prepare you for easy, yet wonderful refashions without the need of any special garment construction skills.
This tutorial explains the three "how to" stages, with supporting videos, pictures, tips and detailed instructions.
Along this project you will learn:
- How to make sleeves only by tracing an armhole of a garment;
- How to do a coloured rolled hem with just 1 coloured spool;
- How to make a gather only by using straight machine stitch.
Going back to today's project, in zero waste terms the "one new from two old" aims not only to arm you with great easy refashioning technique. It also comes to show how the garments we transform can be used entirely, without any or at least with only tiny bit of wastage.
I must admit, zero waste could be a great challenge, but the good part is that:
Refashioning clothes can become even more sustainable by using the zero waste design approach
How To Design & Sew Easy Zero Waste
"One New from Two Old"
Tools & Materials:
- One sleeveless garment (knit or woven)
- One shortsleeve blouse that drapes well
- Corresponding colour thread
- Tape measure
- Air erasable pen/marker
- Basic sewing tools
- Sewing machine
- Optional: an overlocker / serger
Stage 1: The Design Process
The first thing in the zero waste “one new from two old” strategy is to determine the final design. Everybody who's ever tried design a garment knows it could be a deeply personal and intuitive process. It involves designer taste, aestetics, but also unconsiousness that keeps previous memories, emotions, the long term developed experience or previous exposure to other interesting items, ideas or even garments. However there are some things we can learn and relate to in this design stage. Here is the fun, most undefinate part in which trying different options is a must;).
For today's project begin with figuring out the three most important things about the design:
- The colour combination
- The design elements & lines
- The embellishment
Choosing The Colours
You don’t have to be familiar with the elements of design to know that colour is very powerful. It surrounds us everywhere where there is a light. In garment design colour is one of the most important design element that can have critical role for obtaining certain look.
The best way for me to visualize when designing is simply to put materials I'll use close to each other. That helps heaps when you are trying to find the final colours that would go best together.
In this project I’m choosing bright warm fuchsia colour as my main refashioning garment (in the middle of the picture). This was my design starting point. I spot the same colour rabbit fur scarf at the same time when I found it in the thrift store.
The second item could be within any preferable colour combination. At the beginning I considered the silk dress within the warm red colour palette which generally matched well (right on the picture). However, these colours were too heavy and intense for me. Thus my final choice is actually to brake the bold fuchsia with supplementary colours. The unwanted semi-sheer polyester fad with white, blue, dark and red print mix creates different, fresh, lighter and interesting colour combination.
In the middle is the main garment. On both sides - the two options from which I'm choosing the left as a supplementary garment
TIP: Find your raw materials at the same time
To make your task easier, you can look around and find all the materials while still in the thrift store. After finding the main garment, dig for the supplementary one and, also, if there’s anything interesting to add as an embellishment. It's unforgivable to miss out all the great choice there and available variations, isn't it?
Choosing The Design Elements
The mix of different colours make it really easy. It allows design lines and elements to be very simple. So without any complicated cutting or detailing the final result still will be quite powerful thanks to mix of colours. The secondary blouse will be cut across, hence the printed hem area
will become skirt extension of the new tunic dress. The rest (the sides) I’ll use to make sleeves. And finally, whatever left from the blouse, I’ll use to embellish.
The material of the second garment is soft and fine semi see-through polyester. It has great draping qualities - ideal for fine fabric manipulation. At this stage rough idea how to embellish
with the remnants is fine. After all considerations, I decide to make flowers “as-I-go” to embellish the fuchsia top at the chest area. Also I’ll add pieces from the rabbit fur scarf - on the sleeves and centre of the flowers.
Stage 2: Constructing The Garment
There are two main steps here:
- Sew the skirt extension
- Make the sleeves
Sewing The Skirt Extension
Cut the secondary garment across. Then attach the skirt extension to the main top.
The main garment from today's project is a vintage type of silk and wool blend, fine sweater knit fabric. It has great stretch in it and attaching the other material could be a challenge for less experienced in working with stretch materials. However, don’t leave that to push you off! Instead, give it a try and you may succeed with nice outcome. At least, the try can only benefit you in the long run, having the experience working it around will be really valuable.
However, if you don’t feel confident enough, you can substitute the knit top with a woven one. Then you'll have both materials less challenging and you'll still have a beautiful refashion project “one new from two old” at the end;).
TIP: Adjust the tension settings on your sewing machine
Decrease the tension between the presser foot and the feed dogs of your sewing machine to avoid puckering the seam when sewing the knit material (hem and sleeves).
To do the settings loosen the tension knob for the presser foot. Looks a bit different on every machine, but is always located vertically of the presser foot mechanism (on top of the machine, at the front, on the side). In the machine manual find how to set the tension knob for different fabric thicknesses - choose the one for medium to heavy fabrics. Don’t forget to turn the tension back when you finish;)
Making The Sleeves
As many things you can do in sewing (and still look professional), here sleeves can be done in few different ways. They can be draped on a mannequin, drafted from specific measurements (creating a pattern), done from an existing sleeve pattern, or done more freely by tracing the main garment armhole.
I wanted to do the fastest method, therefore I did trace the main garment armhole (see the instructions below). Anyone with some experience working with sleeve patterns should be fine with this method. Additionally, the gather on 1/3 at the sleeve top gives enough freedom for small corrections on the go.
The main thing is to give enough room at the sleeve head top, so the sleeve can lay on the shoulder without pulling. Therefore, the gather on the sleeves is not only a design decision for the new garment, but most of all a fitting solution. To make the second sleeve, mirror trace the first. Measure the length of both sleeves to ensure they are a pair.
If you manage up to this stage, then you are almost done. The most difficult part is behind you. All that follows from now on is pure fun;). It's time for the embellishment.
Stage 3: Apply The Embellishment
Make The Embellishment
The leftover material I'm using to make flowers as an embellishment. This also will brake down the fuchsia colour a bit and make the tunic more interesting.
Cut rectangular pieces from the remnant cloth maximum 20x10cm (8x4in) or smaller. It is effective, if on each piece you apply overlocker seam, particularly rolled hem finish. Alternatively, leave the edges raw.
Attach The Embellishment
Machine stitch every flower separately, on several places before adding to the garment, so it can hold its shape. Next, machine stitch and attach to the garment. Stitch only on some places, just enough to secure the flowers without oversewing them and loosing the 3D effect. Similarly to this refashion with lace flowers, but without the fusible, as here the embellishment is less and not that heavy.
At the end hand sew and attach the rest of the embellishment if you have any. In my case I stitched few pieces from the rabbit fur scarf.
Alternatively, look for trims, buttons or anything suitable in your stash and go wild;) And don’t forget to think about washing the garment. I’m not saying you have to wash it though;).
Just whatever you use at this stage, make sure the embellishment will be find to be laundered (turning inside out and washed in a laundry bag for fine garments - these would be the washing instructions for my project here).
Pinned variations of the embellishment before the final look
The Finished “One New From Two Old” Project
Your end result will be different, of course, and I'm sure will be amazing! Most of all, the design here displays how easy, yet productive the zero waste method could be for refashioning clothes. This tunic dress is done only from two thrifted women's tops and a rabbit fur scarf (for a little bit of fluff enchantment). To make the best use of the leftovers from the multicolored top - I played a bit and make the flowers for the embellishment.
The main body material is fine sweater knit, blend of natural silk and wool fibres - comfortable yet great looking dress. I like that the tunic dress can stretch, which gives it versatility to fit different body shapes. No more struggle if I put few kilos next winter. ;)
The zero waste leftovers ;)
As mentioned above, the zero waste design approach could have any or very little fabric waste. Look how my project ended up;) With just a smidge of leftover material, a strip from the neckline of the second garment I cut.
I hope now, since you know about the potential of zero waste, you will look your sewing projects differently. Reworking unused garments can be original, but also excitingly sustainable at the same time, right?
However, my best thing I'm taking from this tutorial making experience is the great fun (and the hard work too;) from tapping onto videos! This are my first three videos I've ever made! And I really hope they were useful and you liked them. Of course, even now I can see lots of room for improvement and, I'm sure, this will come in near future.
Leftovers from the project
However, I'd truly appreciate your feedback on the videos. Please let me know in the comment section below. Tell me how do you find the videos, do you like them or what could I add to them to make it better for you to understand. Thank you!
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