Saturday, 16 July 2016

Alterations – Repair & Revive

This is the second instalment of my exploration of what can be done with alterations, this time I am going to focus on straightforward repairs of the things you love, and using repairs to revive much loved garments.  Repairs can be very simple, like patches on elbows or binding a worn edge; and then some may be really big repairs that might give new life to an old coat or even be restorative to a historical piece.

This velvet jacket was a little worn at the cuffs and pockets, had moth damage on the edge of the collar and a number of buttons were missing; there was also damage to the lining.  I replaced the lining with a new blue lining, bound the damaged edges on cuffs, collar and pocket flaps then replaced all of the buttons with nice matching blue ones.  This was a favourite jacket that had served at least 10 winters and will go on for 10 more, it was an expensive jacket when my client bought it new so she was delighted for it to have a new lease of life.

A potential museum piece, this RAF NATO flying jacket from the 1950s was originally lined with leftover parachute silk from WWII, this silk was printed with a map of Europe in case the pilot was shot down during the Cold War so they could find their way home or to help – it is an extraordinary garment and very precious.

I was originally asked to repair the lining in the numerous places where the silk had degraded over time; my client expected me to patch the resulting holes but after close inspection I talked through the option of restoring the lining as carefully as I could by hand to preserve it for posterity.  I felt duty bound to save such an important historical ‘document’.  My client was so chuffed that I wanted to save his flying jacket for the future and was happy for me to go ahead.

Here is a bit closer look at some of my repairs.  This project was a real labour of love and I am really pleased with my painstaking work on it; my client’s wife called me a week or two after they picked it up to say that she had been looking at it and thanked me for saving what meant so much to her husband.

I have had two jackets from this client, both in the same state with worn out linings so this is the before view of one of them.

And this is the after view of the other one with it’s nice new lining.  Commercially made jacket linings are often cut (a) the same size or smaller than the outside of the garment, (b) with a 7mm seam allowance and (c) no overlocking.   Where the lining is cut the same size/smaller than the jacket it doesn’t have the same durability as the outside because there is more ‘give’ in the outer fabric and none in the lining so it can tear. With such a small seam allowance, if the lining fabric frays it will soon meet the actual seam and therefore tear.  This fraying can be easily prevented if the lining is overlocked.  So the new lining has been cut more generously, with a 15mm seam allowance and been overlocked.  It’s like a new jacket.

This 1950s/60s Teddy Boy coat originally belonging to my client’s Grandfather, was a big project.  For a start it needed major size alterations such as taking it in, raising the sleeve heads and shortening the sleeves.  The lining was also pretty ropy. 

My client chose a real showy Chinese style jacquard satin with Dragon pattern for the new lining, so I replaced all the inside pockets with new ones in the new lining and put back the original labels.

Last of all I ordered new covered buttons to match the lining for a bit of a flourish on the front.

This dress was originally a simple shift dress but had a little hole in the front where it had been caught on something.  After a bit of a ponder I decided to give it a makeover rather than just repairing it.  Covering the hole with an appliqued flower, with lots of friends for said flower, I created a vine with free arm embroidery.  This project was one of my Re-loved off the peg items which sold very swiftly and the lady who bought it fell in love with it on sight, very gratifying for a couple of hours work.

In the next instalment on alterations I will outline some of the projects that I have had using old garments to make new ones, or to sprinkle a little magic over something that is looking a bit tired or outdated.  The last article will include a guide to the estimated costs and time taken for a number of different alteration projects and will also cover more run of the mill alteration projects for ladies and gents clothes.


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