Sunday, 25 June 2017

The Big Stitch

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a pretty good chance that you know how to sew on a button. But according to a recent poll of over 2,000 Brits, almost a quarter of the population do not. This was one of a number of sewing-related statistics recently revealed by the British Heart Foundation at the launch of its Big Stitch campaign.

You can read more about the campaign here, but the quite simply the idea is this: you buy a garment from one of the British Heart Foundation’s charity shops (and so help fund research into heart disease), and then during July make it your own by customizing it. You can upload your 'before' and 'after' pictures on social media with the hashtag #TheBigStitch, and there is a competition as well. A good friend of mine recently lost his dad to heart disease, so I've decided to see what I can make.

Now much as I love making my own clothes, the one thing I miss out on is clothing made from fabric printed for a specific item. All the fabric I use is either plain, or an overall pattern. Apart from border prints, there aren’t many other options available for the home dressmaker. So for this project I thought I’d look for something with a distinctive, non-overall print. In the event I bought two items, both dresses.

Exhibit A

First up is this cotton sundress from Bay, an entirely new name to me. This cost all of £4.49 ($5.69). It has a flared skirt with a design of large black and yellow flowers. The bodice is plain white with narrow adjustable straps, there is a side zip, and the back is shaped with a shirred panel. Clearly it once had a belt, because there are loops on the sides, but this was lost by the time I bought the dress.

Bodice back

Like all regular ready-to-wear clothing, the bodice is too long for me; so it bunches up around the waist. Overall, the dress is also a bit small. The bodice style isn’t something which I’d usually wear, but I think that I can do something with the skirt.

Exhibit B

This maxi dress is from Dorothy Perkins and cost £6.99 ($8.86). It is made from 100% polyester; not a fabric I’d usually use, but it has a lovely soft drape. The dress has an integral tie belt, and like the sundress there is some shirring at the back. This one is a bit too big for me, and this combined with the wide neckline means that I don’t actually need the button fasten at the back to get it on and off. Again, the bodice is too long.

Back view (with label still attached!)

Natural waistline on the left, bodice shown full length on the right

I love the fabric, but I really have no idea what to do with this one. And that for me is the point of this project. I really can’t stress enough just how far this is out of my comfort zone. Back in the days of The Great British Sewing Bee, the 'alterations' challenge of was always a complete mystery to me; I could never imagine how anyone could take a piece of clothing and make it into something entirely different. And now I’m going to try it myself. Twice. Wish me luck!

More to the point, if you’re inspired to have a go yourself, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to see what you do.


  1. The alterations challenge was the one I always said I'd never be able to do. Once an item has been made I really struggle to see what can be done to turn it into something else. Some people are just so good at it and come up with some amazing transformations, but it's beyond me.

    It's funny because as soon as I spot a piece of fabric I like I can instantly imagine what it will become. I guess we just all have our own talents! :) I can't wait to see what you do with yours. xx

    1. I'm starting with the easy one (the white sundress). Materials have been bought, now I just need the time! xx