Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!


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Thrift-Shop Thursday: Giving Thanks!

When I realized that this month’s Thrift-Shop Thursday post would fall right smack on Thanksgiving Day (here in the U.S., at least), somehow it didn’t seem right to do another piece about the new “upscale-thrift” boutique opening up near me, or to wave my latest great deal gleefully under your collective noses. Instead, it occurred to me that it might be fun to look back on the various TST posts I’ve done (from the beginning!), because when I think about it, there’s a whole lot to be grateful for! Here’s a quick round-up of my top 5 favorites, with thanks-giving notes in each photo caption.

1. My very first Thrift-Shop Thursday post, featuring this stunning vintage Christian Dior jacket, and including a replace-a-button tutorial! It’s shown here on my daughter, who snatched it from me and wouldn’t let go. (Okay, the truth is, it fit her a lot better.)

Jacket with its new button

What I’m grateful for: A Dior jacket for $25.00, happy daughter, and my overflowing button stash, which yielded this replacement button! (Click on the photo to go to this post.)

2. Expanding the Definition of thrift-shopping: tips on finding bargains in the fabric store, with details on choosing patterns to make the most of marked-down remnant pieces.

Silk remnants

What I’m grateful for: fantastic fabric stores nearby, beautiful silk remnants like these at bargain prices, lots of pattern and project choices to make the most of remnants, and the fact that I know how to sew! (Click on the photo to go to this post.)

3. The Remnants of the Day (a follow-up to the Expanding the Definition post, detailed above), in which I went into more detail about projects that could be done with fabric remnants, and included lots of patterns that would be perfect for use with remnants (and/or fabric scraps— hello, stash!). This pattern, Butterick 5856, which is quite unusual in that it combines woven and knit fabrics, is a great example.

Butterick 5856

What I’m grateful for: pattern companies that consistently produce fashionable, creative patterns, beautiful fabrics (especially bargain-priced remnants), and my sewing machines! (Click on the photo to go to this post.)

4. Late last summer, my archaeologist daughter did a guest post called View from the Trenches for CYC, detailing her last-minute search for a dig wardrobe, most of which came from thrift shops.

A field ensemble

What I’m grateful for: that my daughter had this unique dig opportunity, that we were able to find some great stuff at even greater prices (and in time for the start of the dig), and her distinctively witty writing style! (Click on the photo to go to this post.)

5. And finally, my most recent Thrift-Shop Thursday project: yes, it’s the Franken-Coat! (This was a 2-part project, so this second part happened on Makeover Monday; Part 1 was posted on the previous Thrift-Shop Thursday.)

Franken-Coat!

What I’m grateful for: 2 fantastic thrift-shop jackets, finding a super-fun lining fabric, and using up 4 unmatching buttons from the aforementioned stash! (Click on the photo to go to this post.)

I’ve only been doing the Thrift-Shop Thursday posts since April of this year, and going back to look at the early editions has turned into a wonderful experience! And it’s definitely reminded me of so many things I’m grateful for, and not just at Thanksgiving: living in a city with lots of great thrift shops (and fabric stores!), having a fantastic sewing machine and serger, being able to make my own clothes as well as to alter or repair thrift-shop garments, and I don’t want to overlook “small” things, like having a camera to photograph all these ideas and projects.

Most of all, I’m grateful for you, my readers and fellow bloggers, for following Changing Your Clothes, for your likes and comments, for your own blogs, and most especially for all the ways in which you inspire me.

Thank you.


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Goodwill Hunt, Part 2: The Loot

Okay, it’s not Thursday again already, but this is the promised follow-up on last week’s Thrift-Shop Thursday post, in which I explored a fabulous Goodwill boutique in the hipster-cool Hawthorne neighborhood of Portland. (Don’t you love the store displays?) Today, I’ll show you what I bought, and finish off my review of this hard-to-believe-it’s-a-thrift shop!

You know how it goes with thrift shopping… feast or famine, right? Some days the shopping cart runneth over, and on other days, you regretfully leave with nothing. This experience was a kind of hybrid of the two; I did find several wonderful things— for my daughter, who was with me on this shopping safari. One girl’s bust can be another girl’s bonanza.

First, this will give you a sense of the variety and quality I found throughout this Goodwill boutique:

Trying things on

Exploring what’s available. At left, Valerie is trying on an adorable vintage wool boucle jacked with mink collar (lined in silk, price: $24.99.). To the left of the mirror is a gorgeous BCBG silk blouse (also $24.99). And on the right, I won the traditional who-will-be-the-first-to-find-cashmere race when I spotted this J. Crew lilac cashmere pullover for $39.99!

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Thrift-Shop Thursday: Goodwill Hunt!

On previous Thrift-Shop Thursdays, I’ve occasionally mentioned a Salvation Army Boutique shop that’s close to where I live; remember the Christian Dior jacket I found there for my daughter? (It would have been for me if I was a few sizes smaller, but at least the jacket found a worthy wearer.) I love this shop; it’s quite small (compared to the usual warehouse-like thrift shops), but evidently someone is doing a major job of editing its contents, because much of what I see there is higher-end quality, including quite a few designer names.

I discovered recently that Goodwill is also opening up boutique versions of its trademark thrift shops; I learned this from my friends over at the Goodwill Hoarding blog, who were also kind enough to let me know where I can find the 2 Goodwill boutiques* in the Portland, Oregon area. There’s one downtown, and another in the Hawthorne district, which just happens to be one of my favorite parts of Portland: eclectic, lively, and high-energy. I’ve actually walked or driven past this boutique many times, but always had something else to do that prevented me from stopping in.

But not today! Today I’m heading over to Hawthorne, excited about what I might find there, and will continue this post after I get back. Wish me luck! Continue reading


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Altering the Alteration: Knit Top Follow-up

On the last Thrift-Shop Thursday, I showed you how to manage a couple of tricky alterations for Valerie’s stretchy knit thrift-shop top: shortening the straps, and closing the gap where the crisscross front panels overlap. The results were somewhat mixed; shortening the straps made a positive difference, but Valerie thought my attempt at invisibly stitching the front panels together was not invisible enough. (She’s right.)

Today, I’ll show you the newly altered alteration, which basically entailed removing my hand-stitching from the side where it showed.

Here’s what it looked like after the original alteration:

After first alteration

After the first round of alterations. Yes, the potential for gaping in the center front is eliminated, but unfortunately, my hoped-for invisible stitching was not quite all that.

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Thrift-Shop Thursday: Altering a Knit Top

It seemed so simple at the time. On one of our thrift-shop jaunts, my daughter had found a beautiful cream-colored silk-blend rib-knit top whose shoulder straps were perhaps just a little too long. Little did I know…

Valerie's top, before

Valerie’s top, before… it turned into an epic alteration project. Issues: 1. Shoulder straps are almost falling off her shoulders, and showing bra straps. 2. Overlapping front panels are too far apart, causing the dreaded gaposis (and showing a little too much cleavage for her taste). 3. Excess fabric under the arms, creating bunched-up areas. What to do, what to do…

Tip: I asked Valerie to wear a bra in a contrasting color, so that we could be really sure if the straps and/or the band in the back were visible or not.

The armhole-shortening alteration is one I’m all too familiar with. Since I am relatively large-busted but with a narrow rib cage and shoulders, when I buy clothes to fit around my bust, they almost always are too big in the shoulders and armholes; if the garment is sleeveless, this is especially a problem, showing a lot more of my bra than I’d like, not to mention threatening to fall off my shoulders.

Aside: Why is it that manufacturers seem to think that if one part of a woman’s body is large (like my bust), the rest will be equally large, including her height? I understand that they’re using averaging to come up with their sizing, but since when does a person get taller when she puts on a few pounds? It’s as if they take, say, a size 2 pattern and simply stretch it out in all directions to upsize it. Proportionally, this doesn’t make sense. End of aside.

So I’ve had a lot of experience with the armhole-shortening concept. However, with this particular top, in trying to come up with an alteration strategy, I was perplexed by a couple of things:

1. Because this top was constructed by essentially knitting the pieces together (not sewn in the conventional sense), there are no seams; instead, on the shoulders, where there would normally be a seam, the front and back appear to be grafted together.

The main issue is keeping bulk to a minimum. No matter how I sew a new seam at the shoulders, the newly-created seam allowances will create bulk. Another issue is that, with this very stretchy rib knit, the fabric is likely to stretch while I’m sewing it; this could actually be beneficial, in that if the strap does become a bit wider because of stretching, it will do a better job of hiding bra straps.

2. The center front poses a similar problem. There is a seam going from side to side under the bust, but it’s an enclosed seam, a technique done on knitting machines. Here’s what the under-bust seam looks like on the inside:

Enclosed seam

Enclosed seam. This is the seamline that runs from side to side, under the bust. (Shown on wrong side.) Problem: I can’t undo this in order to move the front panels closer together.

Tip: Just for the record, this kind of construction actually shows use of high-quality techniques, and I’m not complaining about that! It’s just that without normal seam allowances to work with, alterations are almost always more complicated.

If there was a normal seam under the bust, what I’d do is undo that seam, and overlap the center panels closer together to eliminate gaping (gapping?); but with this enclosed seam, that’s not an option. Aaargh…

For lack of a concrete plan, I just started pinning to see what would happen. Here, with just one shoulder pinned into a new seam, you can immediately see the difference shortening the strap makes:

Pinning the shoulders

Pinning the shoulders. With 1 shoulder pinned, you can see the difference: most of the bra strap is covered, and that bunching of fabric on the side of the bust is eliminated!

I had been concerned that shortening the shoulder straps that much would pull the under-bust seam up, but that didn’t happen, as you can see in the photo above. My guess is that the stretchiness of the fabric, and possibly the close fit of the bodice under the bust, made the difference.

When pinning the shoulders, I thought I might as well really refine the fit, so I pinned the new seams to fit the slope of Valerie’s shoulders:

Pinning shoulders

Pinning the shoulders (the sequel): With both sides pinned in place, the improvement in fit is even more obvious.

Sloping shoulder

Refining the fit: Instead of following the original shoulder line of the top, I’ve pinned the new seam to follow the natural slope of Valerie’s shoulders.

Now to sew the new seams! As usual when I’m sewing something stretchy, I’m using a wide, shallow zigzag stitch.

Tip: When sewing knits, I always use a ball-point needle in my sewing machine. This type of needle separates threads in the fabric, rather than piercing them, reducing the possibility of snags or runs.

Sewing shoulder seams

Sewing shoulder seams. 1. Zigzag-stitching the seam. 2. Snipping the new seam allowance open. 3. Zigzag-stitching the seam allowance .5″ from seamline (both sides). 4. The seam allowance on the right has had the excess trimmed away; left side has not yet been trimmed.

Some details about sewing the seams (numbers refer to the photos):

1. I had thought I’d have to stretch the fabric slightly while sewing, but this stuff is so flexible that it stretched by itself in the course of sewing.

2. Because there was no previous seam, I cut the folded edge after stitching the seam, so I could press the seam open; this will make much less bulk than if I simply folded all the excess to one side.

3 & 4. I knew I’d have to finish the cut edges of the seam allowance in some way to keep it from unraveling, as knits are wont to do (don’t you just love that word?). With almost anything else, I’d use my serger, but with all the thread used in serging, I thought it would add unnecessary bulk. So I just zigzagged about .5″ from the seamline, the trimmed the excess close to the stitching.

You can also see in photo 4 that the seam allowances look wider than the straps, due to the stretching of the fabric while sewing the seams. I dealt with this by hand-tacking the corners of the seam allowances into place:

Making tacks

Making tacks. Being careful to roll the outside edge of the top out (where it wants to curl under), I’m carefully making just a couple of stitches on the inside of that roll, to hold the corner of the seam allowance in place.

Tip: To anchor your thread, make your first stitch through the seam allowance, a little away from the corner you want to stitch down. This will allow you to make your final knot under the seam allowance, keeping the trimmed thread ends from showing. And yes, I figured that out the hard way.

Here’s what the new shoulder seam looks like on the outside, after tacking the seam allowance ends and steam-pressing very lightly:

After tacking

After tacking. If you really look you can tell where I tacked the corners of the seam allowances, but at least there’s no visible bulk showing through.

Tip: It’s a little embarrassing to me to show you that last picture; honestly, it wasn’t until after I sewed both seams that I even thought about trying the match the ribs on both sides of the seams. However, with fabric as stretchy as this (it’s mostly silk with a little Spandex), even if I had hand-basted the seams together before machine-stitching, I’m not sure they would have come out exactly right. If I was doing this over, I’d at least try basting, though.

Whew. Now on to the center front! You know how, with overlapping panels like we have here, if you try and pin them together, you can always tell? Here, I’ve put 1 pin in to see what would happen:

1 pin at center front

1 pin at center front. This actually doesn’t look too bad, but we both wanted to have more here than just a single tack hold these pieces together.

Center pinned

Pinning both sides together. By pinning on both sides where the panels overlap, I think we could create something more secure, and possibly a smoother finish.

The issue now is, how do I sew this in place invisibly? The part that’s pinned on the left side in the photo (above) is where stitching will show the most; on the right, with the natural roll of the edge of the fabric, I thought I could conceal hand-stitching fairly easily. I decided to try a simple blind hemstitch, the same as I would use to make a normal hem:

Stitching the center

Stitching the center. Top: Working on the wrong side, I’m using a blind hemstitch, unrolling the edge of the topmost panel as I go. Bottom: Working now on the right side, I’m doing the same thing, trying to make my stitches under the rolling edge.

So how did it all work? Here’s the before and after:

Before & After!

Before & after! The differences are subtle, but effective: The shoulder straps, widened by creating seams, cover more of the bra, the bunching on the sides is gone, and the crisscross center looks smoother and more stable, and is just that crucial bit more covered.

So what seemed at first to be an easy matter of shortening shoulder straps turned into quite the daunting alterations project! I had to figure out how to create shoulder seams where there were none before, without adding visible bulk, by the way, and how to smoothly connect the 2 front panels where they overlap. That may not sound like much, but it was more than I expected, I must say. But I learned a lot, and Valerie now has a lovely silk-blend top to add to her wardrobe (although I don’t think she’ll be wearing it for field work), and for which she paid the princely sum of $4.99!

Late-breaking news: Valerie has decided that the stitching that I tried so hard to make invisible on the center front (the part to left of center in the After photo) is not quite invisible enough. I really can’t disagree. After talking it over, we’ve decided that we’ll see what happens if I take out the not-quite-invisible stitching, leaving just the one side stitched down (the part overlapping on the outside, to the right of center in the photo). I’ll post an update with photos when I get that done.

Special note: Since these tutorials, and the Makeover Monday ones, are quite time-consuming to produce in blog-post form, I’ve decided that henceforth, Thrift-Shop Thursdays will happen on the last Thursday of every month, and Makeover Mondays will be on the second Monday of each month. So look for the next Makeover Monday on September 9, and the next Thrift-Shop Thursday will come up on September 26. In between, I’ll finally be getting to a lot of other ideas I have for you here on Changing Your Clothes— next up (after the knit top update), a new installment of Closet Confessions!


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Thrift-Shop Thursday: Having A Field Day

Last weekend, my daughter Valerie, an archaeologist, found out she would have an opportunity to do some field work. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), unless you have a Ph.D or two, it’s very rare to be invited to do on-site digging— one usually has to pay significantly for the privilege. So naturally, she jumped at the chance. And then rose the all-too-familiar desperate wail:

“What do I wear?”

Just to put this dilemma in perspective, an everyday look for Valerie would be a pencil skirt, sleek sweater or top, and heels. (Yes, unlike her mother, she’s very Hollywood-glam; not exactly vintage, certainly not retro, just modern glam.) Unfortunately, this style doesn’t (I assume) lend itself well to crouching down in a hole for hours at a time, sifting buckets of dirt, etc.; maybe this is glamorous work to an archaeologist, but even so, a pencil skirt somehow doesn’t seem… appropriate.

What would be appropriate? Valerie says definitely not jeans: too hot, restrictive, uncomfortable. But pants do seem indicated. I suggested something like khakis and/or cargo pants. This was a little like suggesting to a vegetarian that she try a lovely dish of calf’s liver, but eventually, she realized that if she had to wear pants (and casual pants at that), she could do worse. Khakis went on the list.

She also needed some casual tops, i.e. ones she wouldn’t mind getting covered with dirt and dust. These should be long-sleeved (for sun protection), natural fiber (for coolness), and above all, washable. Long-sleeved cotton t-shirts went on the list.

Now that Valerie’s shopping list was forming, she had to decide where to shop. Since she didn’t want to spend a lot on clothes for such a specialized purpose, I suggested thrift-shopping. (There are 2 really good shops quite close by.). Honestly, since I almost never shop for pants (at any kind of shop), I didn’t know what kind of selection we might find, but on the other hand, thrift shops generally have a wider assortment of brands to choose from. So I thought the odds of finding something were actually in our favor.

Other list items: Wide-brimmed sun hat, work gloves (leather), and comfortable shoes or boots that can get dirty.

Valerie’s going to write a guest post for Changing Your Clothes about this experience, but for now, I’ll just tell you that, in less than 3 hours, we went to 2 shops, she tried on over 30 pairs of pants (and about a dozen tops at the first shop), out of which she got 2 nice long-sleeved t-shirts, 2 pairs of khaki/cargo pants, and even a bonus pair of Ralph Lauren jeans in the most interesting shade of silvery-white! Total spent: $43.00!

Future post alert! It occurred to me during our shopping trip that planning for Valerie’s new field-work wardrobe was not unlike planning a travel wardrobe: both have specific needs, deadlines, climates, events, and budgets to consider. This is an idea I’m going to explore in another post (or three); the more I work on these concepts, the more I realize how helpful it is to start with a concrete strategy.

I’d love to show you pictures of Valerie’s new(ish) stuff, but she got a last-minute notification to go in this morning for 6 hours of  orientation and training for her field work. (It’s a good thing we didn’t wait until the last minute to shop!) She went off looking professional, appropriate, comfortable, and even —surprise— chic!

Thrift-Shop Thursday posts appear every 2 weeks here on CYC.


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Thrift-Shop Thursday: A Fresh Crop

For many (including moi), thrift shopping is primarily about the thrill of the hunt: slowly circling the aisles, gradually narrowing your search until you finally zero in on the one pristine cashmere sweater in the entire store. Yesss! You do the dance of joy. You carry your prize home in triumph, carefully remove it from its recycled plastic shroud, lay it on your bed to admire it, and then can’t resist slipping into it. Which is when you realize the sleeves are longer than you thought.

This has happened to me, and I have to admit (shamefully) that it mostly happens when I don’t try things on in the store. But wait— all is not lost!

Even non-thrift shop purchases often come with a catch: alterations that are necessary for a really perfect fit. In the case of a sweater, alterations can be challenging; you’re dealing with a knitted fabric, so cutting into it means having to secure a lot of ends so that runs don’t happen. I’ll probably show you how to do this at some point, but for today, I’m going to use something simpler as an example a common thrift-shop garment alteration: shortening yoga pants.

Thrift-shop yoga pants

Thrift-shop yoga pants, before cropping. Even on a 5’6″ girl, these are way too long.

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