Monday, November 7, 2011

I Just Keep On Amazing Myself, Sweater Edition

Dear readers, despite my previous frustration, I do seem to be making some progress on my wardrobe gaps. First off, I picked up a men's extra-large wool sweater at the Salvation Army, cut it apart, and reassembled to make this cute little number:

Sweater: men's wool sweater repurposed into a forties-style women's sweater.
Skirt: see here (I wasn't kidding when I said I wore it all the time).

Back/side view:

(Excuse the subpar camerawork; my usual photographer was on the phone with her brother when I put this post together.)

(And yes, my sewing room really is that messy.)

I don't have a full tutorial, but here are some tips, step-by-step, on resizing sweaters--it's not a difficult process, but if you've never worked with knits before (as I hadn't) it can be a bit intimidating.  Just remember that if you screw up, you're out four bucks at worst--the beauty of thrifted clothes!

  1. Buy a sweater: preferably all-wool (for me anyway), preferably men's, preferably extra-large.  Crewnecks are best, long sleeves are best, a fairly baggy cut is best--basically, you want to get the most fabric you can.  Don't worry about the style lines or anything, but you don't want any kind of decoration or an irregular print.
  2. Draft your pattern.  I'd never drafted a knit pattern before, so I took my basic bodice block, fudged the darts out of it, and checked the shoulders, bust, waist, and armscye against my measurements.  The goal is very little ease; I went for one to two inches in each area and wound up with a comfy, slightly baggy silhouette.  Here's what my pattern looks like:
  3. Cut the sweater apart at the seams.  This is fairly straightforward; just be careful that your scissors don't slip and chop into the body of the sweater!  I cut off the ribbing at the cuffs, neckline, and waist with about an inch seam allowance, and reattached them later on; the style of your particular sweater will tell you if that's possible for you.
  4. Fold the sweater front and back in half, and lay out your pattern.  You will absolutely have to work around some bits: I had to sacrifice my intended boatneck because the original sweater had a V-neck and it cut into my pattern; I cut a modified scoop instead and it worked just fine.
  5. Lay out the sleeves.  Sometimes you can use the original cuffs without detaching them, which is a plus.
  6. Cut out your pieces!
  7. Sew the front and back together at the shoulder seam, using seam tape and a plain straight stitch.  Finish the seam however you like (Hong Kong? Zig-zag?  Serger if you're fancy?).
  8. You'll probably want to put the sleeves in flat, because knits are a pain in the ass and you don't need any fullness anyway, so whatever.  Do that now with a stretch stitch, and finish the seam.
  9. Sew up the side seams and sleeve seam with a stretch stitch, and finish the seam.
  10. If you took the cuffs off, reattach them (with a stretch stitch, just like every seam from now on) and finish that seam.
  11. Wrap the original waistband around your waist, and pin it to the size you want.  Make sure you can pull it off over your head!  Then attach it to the body of the sweater with a stretch stitch.  You'll have to ease the body of the sweater a fair amount to get it to fit.  Finish that seam.  You're almost done!
  12. All that's left is to finish the neckline.  I turned mine and stitched for this sweater; that turned out a bit ugly because it's really, really hard to topstitch accurately on a loose knit.  For the next one, I'm planning to reattach the ribbing at the neckline.  I'll report back on how that goes.

That's all for now!  I have to go put a couple more chemise dresses together--yes, I finally got around to that--I'm sewing two at once, assembly-line style, because I'm not sure when I'll have another burst of practicality and I'd like to be stocked up.  (What is up with me lately?  I've even been willingly darning socks!)


Intelligent readers will have mentally flipped the first mirror picture above and realized that there is a ring on my left ring finger.  The rumors are true: Dear Partner is now Dear FiancĂ©e.  We haven't set a date yet, but I really want to make my own dress.  Advisable?  Inadvisable?  You probably have an opinion; feel free to share it!


  1. Congrats!
    I didn't make my own wedding dress but I did have it made and I had a lot of input in it (design, fabric, color, details). There were three fittings.
    Planning a wedding (while doing the "life" thing at the same time) is a bit of work for the main planner (usually "the bride"). Decide early what things you will do, she will do, and other people such as family could do. I made my husband make all the food decisions just so I had one less responsibility (also recruited: my brother / music. I had a wedding planner too).
    I did make the invitations (& menus etc) for my wedding and it took many months. So if you plan on making something yourself give yourself a lot of time.
    I always project on brides but I must say I see you in a 20s-40s style wedding ensemble of a skirt, blouse and jacket in a flattering color such as light green, with your wife in tailored menswear with silk accents (tie, vest or blouse). I could also see you make it more formal in a heavy silk bias cut gown with simple lines and a cashmere cardigan.
    Love all the design of weddings and look forward to seeing the progress on yours.

  2. Wow, thanks for the input! We will likely be planning something on the small side (I know, I know, everyone says that) and not for at least a year, so I think I can handle it. My partner is really excited about designing invitations (she's a freelance graphic designer).

    And I love those little wedding suits, but I'm not sure I can get away with one in the twenty-first century. Depends on venue, I guess! I would love the excuse to work with nice silk, though (4-ply?) so I'll keep thinking about it. Part of the attraction of making my own dress would be making my partner some kind of accessory to match--cummerbund or tie or whatever.

    And believe me, you guys will be hearing about all my plans, especially dress-related!