Tutorial: Transforming a polo-neck jumper to a maternity* cardigan

*I’m including the ‘*’ as this isn’t specifically a maternity project. But the finished article is suitable for both maternity and regular wear so is a good project for anyone to try.

I bought this jumper in a charity shop about a year ago, for the enormous price of £1. Big spender, me 😉 I just loved the colour of it and I’m a fan of cabled jumpers in general. But I didn’t really like the neck, it was just that little bit too tight to be comfortable for me. So after wearing it once it hit the back of the wardrobe and has been there ever since. Which is a shame as I still like the colour and I still like the cables. So it was time to transform it into something I will wear.

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I could have just taken off the top and made it into a crew neck jumper, but by opening up the front as well and making it into a cardigan, I’m able to wear it now over my rapidly expanding bump, and it will be great for when baby comes and I’ll be spending hours breastfeeding.

The transformation was actually very easy. First thing I did was identify the centre of the jumper, which turned out to be the centre of a cabled row. Then I very carefully cut up the front of jumper using a nice sharp pair of scissors. Don’t be tempted to use general purpose scissors, as it’s the sharp edges which give you a clean cut and stop the fabric from shifting.
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I only cut as far collar, as I have a faint notion of reusing the ribbing from the neck, but you could quite easily open up the whole of the front.

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As you can see from the photo, there was quite a thick band joining the body of my jumper to the neck. I decided that this would become the new top edge of my cardigan, so I cut parallel to its top edge, leaving about 1cm of ribbing to finish off the neck line.

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Looking like a cardigan already!

Next step is to finish off the cut edges to stop them fraying. I sewed along each front edge and around the neck using a zig zag stitch. Alternatively you could use an overlocking stitch as both will seal the raw edges.

I found that the zig zag stitch left the edges with a slightly frilly lettuce effect as it got a little stretched going through the machine. If this happens to you, don’t worry about it as you can reshape the edges at the end when you press your cardigan.

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One thing to be aware of when finishing your raw edges, is that there will be a lot of little pieces of fluff will come off your cardigan and some of these will end up in your machine. Once you’ve finished your raw edges it’s a good idea to clean out all the fluff to keep your sewing machine running smoothly.

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The final step was to create the new finished edges. To do this I pinned under the raw edge, so that a knit row was the new edge and folded far enough over that I could sew up the purl row to hide the stitches.

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I used a straight stitch to sew the seam, and I sewed very slowly to make sure the same amount of fabric was sewn under the whole way down. I also found I had to take the pins out at least 5 – 7cm from the needle in order to get the best result.

At the neck seam I decided to finish off my cardigan by hand as, unlike the front edges, there was nowhere to hide the stitches and I didn’t have any thread that closely enough matched the colour to blend in. So I used a whipstitch along the inside of the thick neck band, making sure to go slowly and check that my stitches weren’t coming through to the right side of the fabric.

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As a final touch I also did some hand finishing along the front edges. However if you were converting a jumper made entirely in stocking stitch you could skip this step by sewing a double line instead. As I was trying to hide my stitches I decided that a hand finish would be neater and more invisible. At every cable I simply put in a few stitches joining the wrong side of the cable to the raw edge. This is enough to keep the raw edge away from the finished edge, and to stop it from curling around into view when the cardigan is being worn.

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Finally give the new finished edges a good pressing to help them into the correct shape. This will help to take care of any remaining excess from the stretching earlier. Then slip it on, pose, and enjoy your new creation! (Silly face optional! Haha, I should explain I had a toddler trying to climb up my leg at the time!)

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Note: you could add a top button if you fancied, like Delia does here. She also uses fabric to finish off her raw edges, giving a (probably better!) finish to the front edges. But still, I’m happy with my creation 🙂

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Tutorial: Transforming regular leggings into maternity

As I mentioned here I am having real trouble finding any trousers that fit over my low down baby bump. Even the type that are cut incredibly low are a bit too diggy the second I sit down. And anything that does fit when I’m sitting down, will fall off when I stand up. Not really the best look to be flashing my pants at everyone followed by a pulling up the trousers dance!

So I thought I’d give leggings a go in the hope that the nice soft fabric will work against my poor squished bump! But have you seen the price of some pairs of maternity leggings? I mean really, for what is essentially exactly the same product with a little more fabric round the waist, I’m not sure why they cost so much more. (OK, so in the grand scheme of things they aren’t expensive, but I still object on principle.) And it also annoys me that most shops only stock their maternity clothes online. At a time when my body is a different shape at any two points throughout the day, never mind week to week, I’d rather spend my money on something I can try on first.

So I picked up a pair of regular leggings, which I knew fit eveywhere except my tummy, for £3, and set about turning them into maternity leggings.

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It was actually a very simple transformation, all I had to do was remove the elastic from the front half of the leggings and sort out the waist band. Easy!

*At this point I’m going to apologise for the quality of the photos, my camera was having issues with the colour balance, and the dark thread on black fabric was really hard to capture. I’ve used dark grey thread instead of black in the hope that it will show up (at all!) but I’ll also explain each step along the way so hopefully it’s clear what I’m doing.

The first step was to take a look at how the waistband of the leggings was constructed. In my case the elastic was sewn into the seem so it was a little (but not much) more compicated than if the elastic was free to move in it’s own casing. In that case all you would have to do would be to fix the elastic at the side seams, open up a little hole to remove it from the front half, sew up the hole and you’re done!

But if your elastic is sewn in like mine, then start by sewing a straight line to reinforce the ends of the elastic. Do this at the back side of the seam, so that you can open up the waistband at the seam for access to the elastic. I used a triple stitch to make it as strong as possible. Repeat the process at both sides.

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Then carefully unpick the side seams to give you access.

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Now we’re going to unpick the waistand along the whole front of the leggings. Do this carefully with a seam ripper to not damage the fabric. Once it’s opened from side seam to side seam and the elastic is free, you can cut the elastic out.

At this point I tried my leggings on, and they fit perfectly. The remaining elastic at the back was enough to keep them fitted, but they were soft enough round the front to be really comfortable even when sitting down.

Finally I re-sewed the waistband. If you don’t want to include this step you don’t have to. As the fabric for leggings is usually jersey, it doesn’t need to be finished as it won’t fray. And if you don’t plan on wearing them with some little cropped top then noone will be any the wiser!

I will finish off the waistband to show you how to do it. Basically you’re just resewing along the same line that the fabric was stitched before. If, like me, you don’t have an overlocker/serger then you can easily do it with a zigzag stitch. (I’m afraid I’ve never used an overlocker so I can’t tell you how to do it that way) The zigzag stitch is necessary as you want the seam to have some stretch, otherwise it defeats the purpose of this project! A basic straight stitch would either not stretch, or would try to do so and break.

Pin the waistband in place and sew all the way along the front. You might find (if you’re naughty like me and don’t use the proper needle for jersey fabric… Must buy a new one!) that your zigzag skips in places so you end up with a couple of straight stitches in the middle of your row. I’ve now worn my leggings, complete with these minor imperfections, for a few days and there is still plenty of stretch in the fabric along the waistband. So if the same happens to you, don’t worry about it. So long as the vast majority of your seam is a zigzag then it will do the job just fine 🙂

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And here are the finished leggings! (Sorry, again, terrible tummy selfie alert! But I wanted to show you the end product in action.)

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IKEA Bargains!

Oh my goodness, is anyone else in love with the IKEA bargain corner? If you’ve never visited it I can highly recommend taking a peep the next time you’re there, in my local store it’s located in a corner beside the checkouts.

A lot of what you’ll find there is damaged, but if you have the time for a rummage, and you look at the potential in an object, not necessarily it’s original function, then your creative side will be as happy as mine is! Today I found these two beauties:

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The white one is supposed to be a glass door for a bookcase, and I’ve no idea what the little wooden thing is supposed to be! But for a total cost of £1.30 I thought I’d have some fun and give them a new and different purpose!

I’m currently thinking that I’ll use the wooden piece as a little shelf on my craft table to give me extra storage space. So I’ll need to find something to raise it up on.

And the door will become a picture frame for above our bed. I just need to decide what will go in it and buy some heavy duty picture wire as it is quite heavy.

So when I get my projects done, I’ll let you know! And hopefully it will inspire you to see the possibilities in the random things you find 🙂

Tutorial: Jumper to Skirt Refashion

So I was recently given a whole lot of clothes that were no longer needed, and told to see if I could use them in some way or they were going to the charity shop. Now, I always like a challenge and I love creating something new out of something old and unwanted, so this sounded perfect. Other people may see a bag of old clothes, I see a bag of free fabric and possibilities!

I decided that my first project would be to turn this jumper into a skirt. Not the immediate thought that comes to mind, but actually a very simple conversion!

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If you want to try this project at home, you will need:

  • A jumper, although this technique would work just as well with any top made of suitable material!
  • Ruler or some form of straight edge
  • Chalk or fabric marker
  • Scissors or rotary cutter
  • Matching or coordinating thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Elastic to create the waistband, I used 1″ wide
  • Bodkin or safety pin

The jumper I’m using is a machine knitted, acrylic jumper with small stitches. This is important as it means that it won’t unravel as easily as a loose knit, which gave me more time to work with it and made manipulaing the fabric easier.

To see your jumper as the skirt, we’re first going to lay it down right side up, but wrong way around, so that the neck is beside you and the waist band is away from you. The waist is going to remain as the waist, and we’re going to remove the sleeves to make room for legs! To do this take your ruler and lay it across the jumper from armpit to armpit. I used my quilting ruler as it’s much longer than a regular ruler, so it did stretch right across. You could use a tape measure pulled taught if you’re struggling to find a straight edge long enough. Then take your chalk, or marker, and draw a straight line across the fabric. This is where we are going to cut to remove the top of the jumper.

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At this point take a moment to try on the newly formed skirt to check the fit. Remember that the cut edge is still unfinished and will shed some fibres. When I tried on my skirt I found that it was much too big for me, as was the original jumper, so I had to take it in to avoid any “wardrobe malfunctions!” I wanted my skirt to be quite tight, if you wanted a looser fit then you could of course leave the extra fabric. I used a quick and easy method to mark where to take in my skirt: whilst wearing the skirt, and with the aid of a mirror, I held the skirt by one of the side seams and pulled all the escess fabric to one side. Using my other hand I then pinched it together at my hip, where I wanted the new seam to go, and pinned. As the fabric is really stretchy there was no need to shape the side seam, this makes life much simpler as you can then mark and pin a straight line down the side of the skirt.

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You might notice I have pinned it with the wrong sides together: this is because I used a French seam (if you’re not sure how to sew a French seam, check out my tutorial here) I used this seam as it encases the raw edges, so the knit fabric won’t be able to unravel whilst I’m wearing the skirt! Using a medium length, straight stitch sew down the line you have marked and then cut away the excess fabric, leaving about 3-4mm beyond the line of stitching.

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Once that’s done, flip the skirt inside out and pin the seam with the right sides touching. Then sew the second line about 6-7mm from the first to enclose the raw edges.

Take a moment to check the fit again, as it’ll be easier to fix at this point than once we’ve sewn the hem!  If you’re happy then it’s time to do something about that raw edge at the bottom of the skirt. If you are using a t-shirt type fabric for this project then you can leave this edge raw if you wish, it will give a more casual look and will mean your finished skirt will be longer as you aren’t having to create a hem. However if, like me, you are using a jumper then you will have to finish the edge as the knit is much looser than on lightweight jersey, so will unravel, especially in the wash!

If your skirt is quite long at this stage and you want it a bit shorter you can finish this edge using a double folded hem. If you don’t have as much length to play with, or you want a less chunky hem then first job is to overlock the raw edge. If you don’t have an overlocker, or a machine with an overlocking stitch, then a zig zag stitch works just as well. I found it easiest to start at a side seam and sew right round the edge until I was back where I started. The key to getting a neat finish is to take your time and try not to overstretch the fabric.

Once you’ve tied off your loose ends it’s time to for the hem. I folded over roughly 15mm (make sure you end up with your hem on the inside of the skirt!) and pinned in place round the whole lower edge. Now as my fabric is very stretchy it was really important not to sew the hem using a straight stitch, otherwise as soon as the fabric was stretched, the stitches would break and I’d no longer have a hem! So instead I used a zig zag stitch which can cope with being stretched without breaking. Again I sewed slowly to make sure I was keeping the same distance from the edge of the fabric.

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Now that the skirt is hemmed the final task is adding elastic to the waistband. As we are reusing the original waistband, just upside down, we don’t need to finish the edge as it is already done for us. We will need to create the casing for the elastic to go through though. To do this we are going to basically do the same as we just did at the hem: fold under, pin, and knit with a zig zag stitch. Only this time we’ll need to leave enough space between the fold and stitches for the elastic. I’m using 1″ (25mm) wide elastic so there has to be at least that width, ideally a mm or two extra to make life easier! We’ll also need to leave an opening to get the elastic in. Conveniently folding the ribbed waistband of the jumper in half gave me exactly the right size of casing, so I didn’t need to carefully measure. I do love it when coincidences make my projects easier!

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I pinned the waistband, leaving a gap of about 6-7cm through which I could feed the elastic afterwards, and then sewed, making sure there was always just over 25mm width in the casing.

Now it’s time to measure out the elastic. I found it easiest to do this by putting on the skirt and measuring round my hips where the waistband sat. I cut the elastic to the same length as my hip measurement, so that after the two ends of the elastic are sewn it will be slightly stretched.

To insert the elastic you can use a bodkin if you have one, or if you don’t, like me, then you can just use a safety pin. Pierce one end of the elastic with the pin, then feed it, pin first, through the casing we’ve just sewn.

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If you’ve never done this before the way to do it is to push the safety pin through a few cm so that the fabric gathers over it. Then pinch the end of the pin and pull the elastic through the gather you’ve just made. Repeat until the elastic is all the way through the casing then remove the pin. Easy!

Overlap the two ends of the elastic, making doubly sure there are no twists, and sew together. I always sew a square shape when joining elastic so that there will be less stress on the stitches than in a single line. For the final time try on your skirt to check the fit. If the elastic is too short then redo the overlap making it tighter. If it is a little too tight then redo making the waist bigger. And if it is much too tight and you don’t have enough elastic then add in an extra piece by sewing a smaller piece onto each end of your elastic to make it longer.

The final task is to close up the gap we left using the same zig zag stitch, and the skirt is finished! A simple project to revitalise an unloved piece of clothing and turn it into something new 🙂

Storage Pot

Do you remember the craft storage I made/repurposed last week? Well I decided it could use a storage pot that I could hang from the second hook at the bottom, for storing things like pens, brushes, scissors, etc. And to continue with the theme of reusing/transforming existing objects I decided to make my own!

For this project I decided that an empty food tin would suit my needs perfectly, especially as there are always some empty ones kicking about, waiting for recycling day.

I started by thoroughly washing out the tin, soaking off the label and removing all the sticky residue. As I was going to paint the tin, it was important that all the residue came off, otherwise the paint wouldn’t properly adhere to the surface.

The paint I used was Homebase’s own brand ‘Duracoat’ which is suitable for using on metal. I have several tester pots of different shades of this paint left over from when we decorated our house last year. I chose a light shade of just off white for the base layer.

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The tin required several layers of paint to give an even finish, so I gave it 3 thin layers. If you know you’re going to need to do a few layers of paint it’s generally always better to make the layers thinner, that way there’s much less chance of drips and blobs! And always give the paint plenty of time to dry in between applying the different layers.

Once the final layer was dry it was time to decide how to decorate the tin! I went for dots of colour, inspired by this dinner set that Tesco currently have, which I quite like:

And as I have a cupboard full of tester pots I just used a few of them to paint my tin. I didn’t have a specific plan for where the dots should be, I just went with what looked right. In the end I did about 5 spots in each of 5 colours, and my little pot looked like this:

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To make sure the paint doesn’t get scratched or chipped when the pot is in use I then had to seal it. This can easily be done by applying a thin layer of PVA glue to the whole surface of the tin, and will help to strengthen it nicely. I applied the glue using a paintbrush to make sure it had an even layer all over.

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Once the glue finally dried (it felt like it took ages!) it was time to put 2 holes in the top to hang it from. To make the holes I laid the tin on its side on top of a tea towel. This was to deaden the vibrations a little when the hammering started! I took the fattest nail I could find and hammered it until it was fully through the wall of the tin, and gave it a good wiggle to pull it out again, then I repeated the same on the other side of the tin. Just make sure if you do this to watch out for the sharp pieces of metal that this leaves on the inside of the tin – don’t run your fingers over the inside of the hole and cut yourself!

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I then took a piece of thin ribbon (which used to be a hanging loop for some piece of clothing) and poked it through the holes from the outside, knotted it on the inside and my storage tin was complete!

Here it is, complete with a few contents, hanging from my craft organiser. Job done!

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Note: As I mentioned my pot is hung using an old clothes hanging loop. A few years ago I came to the realisation that all the loops on my clothes were not necessary as on 99% of my clothes I never used them: I’m a folder not a hanger! So I started cutting them off and keeping them and you would be surprised how often a short piece of thin ribbon has been just the thing I’ve needed. Honestly, give it a go!

Shower Caddy to Craft Storage

I imagine that most serial crafters have the same problem I keep encountering: that of a lack of storage! There always seems to be something lying about without a home to go to.

So I was really pleased when I realised I already had something kicking about that I could use. This old shower caddy has been hanging in my under stairs cupboard, and was looking a bit rusty and unloved:

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So I cracked out the Cillit Bang and got scrubbing! And luckily it came up gleaming.

Once it dried off it was time to get the tool box out… Always a good project when you need a hammer to finish it off! I used some pictures tacks and, to give it a little extra stability, I also put on a couple of cable clips.

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Then came the fun part: decorating it and filling it up! I had a few silk flowers left over from my wedding and I thought they looked nice just tucked through the bars. Then with a little organising, all the little bits that had been cluttering up my desk finally found a home! Extra storage in less than 15 minutes!

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