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Monday, September 3, 2012

Simple alterations for thrift shop clothing

With many schools either having just started up or about to begin this week, I thought I'd post on some thrift shop deals on teen clothing and how I alter a couple of items in minutes (remember I'm the one who can't tolerate long, drawn-out projects, my attention span is just too short).

The St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop near us has a super deal on clothing. Every Sunday, all clothing items are 99 cents. Earlier in the week, I had taken my two daughters out with me, while I ran errands. The idea was that Grace would look for a pair of jeans, and Julia could choose a new top. We looked and looked at regular retail stores. Julia did find a top at Wal-Mart that she looooved, and only $5, so not bad. Grace, however, could not find jeans of which she liked the fit. That's when she reminded me of St. Vincent de Paul's 99 cent clothing on Sundays, and she begged for us to go a week ago Sunday. I'm usually too tired after church and making lunch for the family, to want to venture out again. I also usually have a bunch of work to do in the afternoons on Sundays. But this week, it all worked out, and after lunch the three of us checked out the clothing at SVdP.

Grace tried on about a dozen pairs of jeans. They actually had a decent amount of jeans to look through, considering they're a smaller store. Some of them were way too skinny for mom's taste (and Grace said they weren't very comfy), some were just too, too baggy. (My girls are petite and have a tough time finding jeans that fit right). But one pair had just the amount of flare to the leg that she wanted, but were just a tad too roomy in the waist. If the denim is a light-weight one, it's very easy to put a couple of darts into the back waste of a pair of jeans. I did this about a year ago with her last pair. I'll show you how it turned out below. Remember this works best with lightweight denim. (My other daughter has a pair of Levis that need taking in at the waist, and I'm still not sure how I'll do that with my wimpy machine.) 

So to make the darts, simply find two spots on the back waistband, equal distance from the back center and pinch the fabric on the inside of the jeans, and pin. Machine sew at an angle, widest at the top of the waistband and tapering to blend with the rest of the jean below. After stitching this seam, do a second stitch just about 1/16th to 1/8th inch in from the first stitching line, as your reinforcement for the seam. Now trim the excess fabric, leaving 1/4 inch from seam. Zigzag stitch this seam allowance, to prevent fraying of fabric. this photo is of Grace's older jeans. They've been through the wash at least 70 times since I did the stitching, and no problems.

back of waistband from the outside of jeans --
 two darts to either side of the center belt loop

one of the darts, as seen from inside the jeans

Grace's jeans were also a bit too long. This is very easily remedied. If the denim is a heavy-weight one, then hand sewing to take up the hem would be easier. For Grace's jeans, I simply turned under the hem about 2  1/2 inches and machine stitched through both layers. In the photo you can see the hem turned under on one leg, and the finished machine stitching on the other.

In addition to the jeans, both girls found a selection of tops that they really loved. One of the girls' new tops was a bit boxy. I solved that by taking it in along both side seams. It was a very quick effort, sewing along the side seam. I first took the shirt in about 1 1/2 inches on both sides, starting just below the armhole. I sewed to indent about 1 1/2 inches on each side, then tapering this indentation until about 2 inches above the bottom hem. I then had my daughter try it on. She wanted it nipped in at the waist a bit more, so following the first take-in of the side seam, I stitched about another inch. Below is the photo of both the inside two lines of side seams. I won't bother trimming the excess fabric, unless my daughter really wants me to. 

Here is the turned right side out photo, showing how the tee goes in at the waist and flares out at the hips. My own tee shirts get stretched out of shape over time, and I nip them in at the waist, as well, with very good results. I've also had the problem of tee shirts' long sleeves becoming too long, and a bit ragged on the sleeve hem. This is easily remedied by turning the sleeve hem under one fold and machine stitching in place, resulting in a new, slightly shorter, finished sleeve hem.

While at SVdP, I found a top for myself, but I offered it to my girls first, and one snatched it up right away. Oh well, there will be more tops for me in the future. And I love, love, love that my girls can find a bunch of new-to-them clothes for the new school year. In total, we spent just over $7 including tax at SVdP and $5 at Wal-mart. They love their new clothes, I love the price. It's a win-win all around.


  1. Some alterations can be harder that starting from scratch on a new garment. However, you show a couple of simple ways that will fit many situations. Nice job.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      You're absolutely right! I've never attempted something like taking a waistband off, or removing sleeves and resetting them in armholes. I just stick to the easy to do alterations. And these are just clothing items that will be worn to school and around the house, so I don't have perfection in mind.

      Thanks for reading!


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