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Dec 16, 2012

Reworking a Shirt I Never, Ever Wear

So three years ago I made this Western-style shirt.  I used a vintage Seventies McCall's pattern and fabric I found locally for $2/yd. which turned out to be Pendleton wool.  I was so proud of the result.  I mean, I'd only been sewing for four months.

But guess what.  I never wore it -- OK, maybe once.  For one thing, I found my use of plaid -- those bias cut pockets and button placket in particular -- overwhelming to my smallish frame.  I used a cheap interfacing on the collar and cuffs that was too stiff.  There were also construction problems, (admittedly invisible to most, given the busy-ness of the plaid) that I wasn't proud of.  This collar stand, for instance:

The topstitching on this cuff:

I also found the collar too wide and the shirt too long to wear comfortably outside my pants.

For three years this shirt has failed to earn its keep in my closet.

That ended today when -- inspired by last week's successful shirt tweaking -- I decided to take this shirt apart and rework it.  Fortunately, I saved some of the leftover fabric, so I can make an entirely new collar stand, collar, and cuffs.  I've removed those busy pockets and Western yokes and I'm even considering re-doing that bias placket.

If I have learned anything since I began sewing, it's that just because I can sew something doesn't mean I should (Western shirts, I'm looking at you!).  With more than three years of sewing garments under my belt, I have a much better idea of what I will wear and what I won't.  Busy, bold plaids are not my thing, no matter what the price of the fabric.

I'm not entirely sure it wouldn't be easier to start from scratch, but I don't have enough uncut fabric.  At the very least this should be an interesting experiment and I'm hoping I like the result enough to wear regularly.

In closing, readers, have you ever completely re-made something years after you completed it? (We're not talking UFOs here.)

Did your tastes change, your size change, or did you simply want to see something with potential get another chance?

Can you make it work the second time around?

Happy Sunday, everybody!


  1. Yes definitely I do! And, great idea about the re-working. I started sewing in summer 2009 and will hardly wear the items I sewed in 2009 and 2010 because of not only the choice of fabric, but also I've learned so much in fit that anything I make now is much better. I still have a long way to go for execution but for me, with the older garments fit is the main issue.

  2. this is happening to me at the very minute. I'm reworking a skirtpart of a dress that became too big (yes! for once) into a peplum top. I only have that fabric to work with, no scraps unfortunately, but insisted on long sleeves (you know how there's always a heated discussion in your head about design choices?). So essentially the peplum won't be very full...maybe it's just going to look like a horizontal seam on the waist, we'll see. But I love the fabric so I have to try to make something wearable out of it.

  3. I recently ripped out a sweater that I'd made about 2 years ago and knitted it over again. It was totally worth it. The issues it had before meant I was never going to be happy with it and now it is darn near perfect.

  4. yes, once. I had a lovely pink burnout floral fabric that I made into a long sheath column dress one summer. After my lapband surgery it was WAY too big on me, but I loved that fabric, so I took it apart and remade it into a short sheath dress. My daughter thinks it's too short, but I still love it and wear it through summer.

  5. My mother made a great jacket last week. She made it out of an old one she wore in the 80's (big shoulders and very loose) she made a tight jacket out of it. I think it's fabulous what she did. It took here a lot of work to rework this jacket but it was worth the effort.

  6. Bravo Peter! It definitely would be easier to start from scratch - but kudos for not wasting Pendleton wool. Maybe there are some other fabrics in your stash that could contribute to a new look for this shirt. Or maybe another garment that needs cutting/re-working. I look at the first couple of shirts I made for my husband and just want to throw them out. I have come so far in my shirt-making skills! But sewing is a process, and we all improve with practice and focus. I can't wait to see how you transform this one!

    Sew Maris

  7. Yes! I like reworking old projects that no longer fit or are out of style. I like the challenge of reworking things - I think it takes a lot more creativity than making something from scratch. One of the last garments I reworked was a skirt. I was able to reuse everything - the zipper, the hooks - and I barely had a handful of scraps left over. Waste not want not... Here's a picture of the new skirt - I'm really proud of how it turned out:

  8. It's excellent that you have shared this along with the close ups of the parts you don't love. I always consider your work to be amazingly tidy and perfectly stitched, so it is inspiring to see that you got there through practice as well.

    I do re-work garments. Sometimes it is a simple fit issue that needs tweaking in order for the item to get wear, and sometimes it is a dress that I hack the bottom off of, and it actually gets use as a shirt. Other times, I just give things to someone who loves them more than me. I have 5 sisters, so someone is always willing to take a hand-me-down.

    I love your western shirt, and I hope you can re-work it so that it will get more wear.

  9. Yes. I made a wrap beach dress out of a beautiful rayon batik. 2 years later I refashioned it into a slip dress. Then it became a plain full skirt with gathered waist, and finally a more fitted waist skirt with drawstring sides. More than 8 years of use, and sadly only fitting to wear on laundry days now. Can't say I didn't get my money's worth out of this $8 a yd fabric.

  10. I did that with 3 skirts I made 6 years ago--refashioned two of them into one fabulous skirt this summer while preserving the original. It's blogged here, an interesting compare and contrast:

  11. Sometimes I think you're more of a perfectionist than I am... Yes I rework things all the time ...assuming its great fabric and suits me of course. Sometimes it's better to turn it into pressing cloths and be done with it.

  12. I love Western shirts on my husband (but he's a much bigger guy than you, and something about the yoke, plaid and bias pockets helps to slim him). I've reworked stuff, but usually only when I love the fabric so much that I feel terrible wasting it on something that never gets worn.

  13. Come to think of it, the shirt that I made for your shirt sewalong never sees the light of day. Why? Because the collar looks like crap. Note to self: forget round collars forever. I not sure if I have any scraps hanging around, but this post makes me want to go look.

  14. yes, I have worked a garment into something else. Mostly for my daughter, but have done it for myself also. I like the color of that shirt on you but it is too busy for you. Simplify it down, and you might like it.

  15. I do rework things! I need to rework a vest I made this Halloween - I miscalculated a width adjustment and ended up adjusting by double the amount I intended. Whoops!

    If I pull the collar off, I should be able to dart the back panel and leave the vest adjustable in case I need the extra width in the future, and then I can pull the nasty cheap interfacing out of the collar and replace it with something less crackly, while I'm at it.

    I think your new shirt is going to look very nice - the plaid seems too big for your frame with all those bias details, but if you replace them with on-grain, I bet it'll look much nicer.

  16. Hi Peter! Wasn't sure where this comment would fit, but it's more in line as a testimonial. A couple of months back, I found an article you wrote for BurdaStyle on sewing for beginners, how you got started, etc. Your story was/is so amazing and gave me so much encouragement (and I'm sure to many others) that I posted the entire post on my blog (of course, giving you all the credit). I especially like the part about learning from blogs, books, DVD's, etc. I attended maybe 3 classes in 2010. Two were horrific experiences to where one almost completely discouraged me from returning to sewing.


  17. i do rework things, actually just this weekend i picked apart a dress that was pretty great construction-wise, just not great on my frame. i re-made the bottom half into a skirt and will later rework the bodice to suit me better and add a new skirt. it's really satisfying to do, though it does have to sit around my closet for a good while before that happens!

  18. Are you aware of how much ass you totally kick?? I mean, you SERIOUSLY rock the nation! How come I'm just now finding your site? It's GREAT!!!!


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