Like most sewers, I have a lot of scraps. Especially since I often sew with second-hand fabric and sheets from the thrift store and so I can't buy just the amount of fabric that I need for a project. Usually this works out well---I can often fit in more than one project on a large piece of fabric. But sometimes it just means that I have a lot of odd shapes left over and can't quite squeeze a blouse or a scarf out of them. Then what do I do?
We don't have a lot of storage space in our apartment, and since our rats passed away at the beginning of the summer, I don't have any ready way to use up the fabric scraps that we produce on an almost weekly basis. It has become a pressing problem (especially after a few failed sewing projects this summer---I liked the fabrics but not the finished garments, and wanted to re-make them into something I would actually wear) to figure out a way to use up a large amount of scraps at once. Inspired by the aloha-shirt quilt we are making out of my husband's old clothes, I thought that I could cut up as many of my scraps and failed garments as possible into squares, sew those squares into patchwork fabric, and then use that fabric to cut out a dress.
This method of using up scraps is time-consuming, but I think that the result is eye-catching, unique, and very wearable. I used my favorite 1970s dress pattern, McCalls 6209 for my first try at this experiment, and I am pleased with the results. I didn't do anything to finish the seams this time, as I was working with sturdy cottons and cotton-blends. I didn't trim the seam allowances either, so I think it should go through the washing machine just fine for at least the next few years. I always try to launder our handmade garments as gently as possible and air-dry them anyway. I can see this as a useful way to use up fabric scraps and make any kind of garment more visually interesting. Right now I am imagining future patchwork skirts, blouses, vests, jumpers, smocks, tote bags, etc.
Mr Rat took these pictures of my new experimental dress a bit over a week ago at Wheeler Historic Farm. It is a unique state park that is still a working farm, historic site, and a hiking area. It's only a few miles away from us, and we've been trying to take advantage of the free admission to enjoy being outside there and visiting the plants and animals while the weather is still somewhat warm. I felt very autumnal and festive in my patchwork and my home-made hair flowers. If you want to make your own, you can follow my simple tutorial here.
Have any of you attempted a patchwork garment before? Is it something you would like to try? How do you use up your fabric scraps?
Since I started Fashion Revolution week this year with some ideas of how to use up fabric scraps, I thought that it might be interesting to put together an inspiration post looking at patchwork clothing---another great way to use up those scraps and re-purpose old fabrics. So without further ado:
Seminole patchwork dress. This dress is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but I found this photo of it while reading an interesting article that features a brief history of Seminole patchwork on the Pendleton Woolen Mills blog.
Dior crazy quilt dress from their Fall 2018 collection.
1970s dress from the VintageLadyGR etsy shop.
1970s quilt skirt from the VintageChicVA etsy shop.
Bandana patchwork jacket by the Japanese brand Kapital.
My library bag has looking rather pathetic, with holes wearing right through the quilted fabric. But I’m fond of it and I’ve had it many years----I don’t want to give up on it yet. I spent some time over the weekend patching the holes with bits of gingham left over from my dress, and now my bag is ready to take some books to the library again.
When a favorite cloth bag or garment starts getting holes, what is your solution? Does mending/patchwork add beauty and character to an object, or do connotations of poverty outweigh what interest visible mending might add?
After I saw a few more holes appear in Mr Rat’s favorite jacket, I persuaded him to leave it at home long enough for me to pull out my mending kit and some scraps leftover from my bandana print dress and from a new Hawaiian shirt that Mr Rat is working on to patch it with. Every time I cover the threadbare spots with colorful bits of fabric and sashiko-style stitching, Mr Rat comes home, puts on his transformed jacket, and admires its increase in character and personality. It takes time to get to know an object, just as it takes time to get to know a person. And I love that he wears my love on his sleeve, and his collar, and every other ragged spot.
Mr Rat is very fond of his old Levis denim jacket and wears it several times a week in cool weather. But it is so old that it has been getting holes in it and Mr Rat asked me if I thought he should throw it away. He looked so sad about the idea that I suggested that he give his jacket to me and I would see what I could do with it. So I patched it up for him with bits of bandana and plaid cotton from our scrap box, and he was delighted to keep wearing his jacket, which he says has more “character” now.
My advice for anyone interested in patching their clothes is to add reinforcement stitches along the inner portion of the patch as if you were quilting it. It helps keep the patch from being easily snagged or ripped and gives it extra durability. It also looks nice in a decorative way, especially in a contrasting thread color.
Does anyone else patch their clothes? I wonder sometimes, living in an area where everyone’s clothes look so very new, whether it is considered socially appropriate to wear patched clothing. But when one has a personal attachment to an item of clothing that is only growing more beautiful with age, doesn’t it make sense to prolong its lifespan by patching it and mending its holes and rips? To wear clothes for very long does seem like such a rarity now.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.