'I save cash on clothes with easy, old-school sewing skills'

Get the scissors out, and turn your old wardrobe into a new one without spending a cent!

Change it, adapt it, and think laterally – those old-fashioned ideas are key to making a limited wardrobe a whole lot larger.

With a shrinking income and very little of it ‘disposable’, I have to be a clever shopper. Food and clothes fight for those last dollars in the purse. Mostly food wins. So when I assess my wardrobe, I often have things that are, for some reason, unsuitable. I am not able to buy replacements and I hate throwing them all out.

Sewing needles and scissors to the rescue.

First item: some baggy, hippie pants I bought in a mad moment. They were completely re-fashioned as I chopped a few inches off the wide waistline and then took the side stitching in by two inches.  I loved the material, but the baggy look added inches to my middle and I didn’t need that! With some elastic in the trimmer waistline and a bit of sewing down the side seams, they were soon a slimmer, more wearable pair of pants.

Blouses I find often have tight sleeves, so they get chopped at arm top or elbow level. I will never understand why manufacturers make such tight sleeves!  A simple change can make a big difference too; buttons on cheaper items are often hideous, and so I change them for simple, more subtle ones.

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Making good a mistake: Bleach got spilled on some trousers I wore, so I made a feature of it, and incorporated the spot into a pattern with more bleach. What had been a single spot became a little line of dots. I did this with a cotton bud dipped in neat bleach. A denim blouse I added some style too was shown recently, and another blouse with a spot of paint I covered with a small lace flower as it was near the top.

Beach dresses, and maxi dresses past their prime become nightdresses, who says we have to wear special nightdresses? My cotton dresses are as comfortable as any nightdress. I also adapt other clothing for nightwear. When I had my knee operation I was very trendy! Wide black three-quarter length pants, a black camisole, better than pyjamas, and I could wow my visitors. It also took my mind off the fact that I looked like I had been dragged through a haystack. Looking good can fool you into feeling good!

Too-tight waistbands on skirts can be tricky; one skirt I put a couple of plain gussets in the side. But if the skirt is midi length the top few inches can be chopped off and then elastic put into a channel you create to be the new waist. A bit more width and the skirt will hopefully fit better, as most skirts taper towards the waist.

I am not brilliant at sewing, and would not like anyone to examine my needlework, but I get by. Altering and adapting helps to prolong useful life for some garments, so have a go. Even if it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost much. One of my failed knitting experiments starting life as a sweater then became my favourite winter hat. I also made a knitted bag from a piece that began life as a scarf. 

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Large wrap scarves in light material make great beach cover ups. I bought one for about five dollars in a charity shop. Just fold in half, cut a ‘v’ neckline in the front and a slight scoop at the back then start sewing down each side leaving a generous area for the arms to go through.

So look at your wardrobe and get the scissors out!

Have you tried adjusting the clothes you already have to get a longer life out of them?