Where to get inspiration:
If you want to stand out putting your own look together and making a few diy pieces is the perfect way, after all who is going to have the exact same look if you came up with the idea yourself. If you don't want to look too far out there then try making a few adjustments to current trends. It is possible someone else will have a similar look and if your friends copy you then take it as a compliment and think up something new. If you get really good at it, then consider starting up your own blog and sharing your looks with others. Be adventurous a great source in the past would be old magazines these days you'll readily find photos online on Pinterest and Tumbler!
Fashions go around in circles one style inspires another, a great designer blends different looks themes and occasionally comes up with a total new look but most have some sort of a historical relevance, whether it's a re launch of a sixties style mini skirt or hot pants or a new take on a regency style frock coat. We've got some beautiful period design books and pattern guides that are great when thinking up something new and a nice stash of British Vogue magazines that are always full of inspiration, if you prefer something you can touch then visit vintage stores, they often have departments that upcycle clothes so you can find unique items there too or have a look at what they've been up to and then shop around for pieces to mix up. We've listed a few vintage stores on our Vintage page have a look, and also some great fashion books on the book page (we will search for some of the older books and add the links too) Also don't forget the great resources at museums the Victoria and Albert Museum (The world's leading museum of art and design) Cromwell Road, London SW7 the V & A proudly houses the 'largest and most comprehensive collection of dress in the world' they offer free admission but also have various tours and special shows throughout the year that you can purchase tickets for, definitely a place to check out for all fashion lovers. Check online for others near you.
For getting started here's how to apply some basic hand stitching first three straight stiches, running stitch, backstitch and prickstitch, followed by three useful hemming stitches, slipstitch, catchstitch and blindstitch.
Running stitch is a simple sewing stitch used for several sewing techniques including use with or instead of pinning fabric together to join fabric quickly together by tacking/basting it can be used for straight or slightly curved seams. Also used in darning, embroidery techniques and in quilting. Push the threaded needle into the fabric you wish to join, gathering the fabric as you push the needle over and under small amounts of fabric with regular spacing in between stitches to form a straight or curved sewing line. It is a temporary fix and can be easily unpicked.
Backstitch is a strong adaptable stitch by hand it is also used to secure the start and finish of stitching lines without the need for a sometimes bulky or awkward knot. It is named backstitch as the needle and thread does what it says and goes back into the fabric behind the previous stitch one stitch forward one stitch back - gradually moving forwards half a stitch at a time with a very secure stitched seam. Useful for hard to reach areas where it will look like machine stitching on the outside and overlapping stitches on the inside.
Prick stitch/pick stitch is a variation of backstitch. It can be used neatly as decorative top stitching or where you need to stitch a zip by hand take care to use a thread matching the fabric being sewn. Prick stitch is where the stitch line is a line of neat very small pricks on the right side of fabric.
Blindstitch is a hemming stitch the stitch thread is invisible, or nearly invisible similar to catch stitch, the stitch also stops the top of the hem from making an ugly ridge on the right side of the fabric. Use right to left motion pointing the needle to the left, roll the hem, edge inside and make small horizontal stitches between the two parts keep the stitches on the right side small and take care not to pull the fabric or it will pucker.
Slipstitch is a good choice for sewing gaps from the outside such as a lined garment that has been sewn as much as possible on the inside before turning and the same for closing cushions, for finishing waitbands, cuffs, used with a clean finish or folded edge. First hide your knot inside the fold of the hem, then near where you started on the outer side pull the needle back through towards you just catching a few strands to be barely visible, continue sewing from right to left holding the folded edge in left hand, continue to bring the needle up through the fold the thread will stay hidden as you continue to sew down into the fold stitching through a few strands of fabric each time pulling the hem gently together, as you close the seam.
Catchstitch perfect for when you need to hem knitted and stretch fabrics together formed by using a zig-zag sewing motion which can be sewn over raw edges to keep them from fraying, the catch stitch is worked from left to right creating a row of overlapping stitches on the wrong side of the fabric
Here we used a high street men's navy coat and gave it a more expensive look by adding brass buttons, all you need is some strong black or dark blue cotton, use some wax to strengthen the cotton if necessary and similar sized buttons a seam ripper and small scissors will also be useful, we checked the button hole size with a button gauge to measure if the brass buttons would fit, but if you already have the buttons just see if they fit through the hole! Or remove one when you go button shopping to see if same size, don't forget to count how many you need, you'll be surprised how easy it is to buy the wrong amount, if you can get a spare too, always handy and sew inside on the side label or similar.
So now you're equipped remove the old buttons, leave a tiny bit of cotton in its place as a marker for where you sew the new button in place, or remove each button as you sew the new one on, and take care not to make any tears a seam ripper is useful here, or make a snip through the cotton and then use a tooth pick to help unravel the stitching. If you find buttons you love and they're slightly bigger you can adjust the button holes (again the seam ripper will be handy) to enlarge the button holes unpick the ends of the button hole stitching and see if the new button fits through, if you need a little more room then very carefully position the seam ripper into the end of the button hole and push to make a slightly larger hole, be warned it's easy to rip too big a gap and then you'll be repairing that before you can go any further. Sew several times through the button and then wrap around a few times too before securing cotton with a knot and moving on to the next one. The more time you spend fixing each button in place the less likely they will fall off!
We played around with a bold orange faux leather biker jacket that we picked up for a steal in a high street shop.
Fancied adding some studs so played around with placement, then poked them through the faux leather, as the jacket was already lined, we made sure to split the pin on the inside without pushing through the lining, it was fairly easy as the fabric was soft and there was plenty of room to grasp both endsof the split stud and still open without being able to see it from the inside.
Then decided to make it a little bit Rock n' Roll and a tribute to David Bowie by adding one of his famous quotes 'I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I Know It Won't Be Boring' using a permanent marker pen in black. We made a font size test first to make sure what would fit and get a general idea of the look. The last image just shows removing the label, because after all it's an original now, couldn't find the seam ripper so used a skewer a tooth pick will do the same job too.
Easy guide to fix a rip in your jeans with simple over stitch, rip/tear shown here alongside back pocket, be fashion savvy give them a longer life. All you need is a needle and we used a navy cotton, you could use black, white or light blue it won't matter too much. To strengthen the cotton you could pull it through some wax (a tea light candle will work)
Turn your jeans inside out.
Pin the jeans back together, ready for stitching.
Start sewing at the top with little catch stitches to keep stitching as flat and smooth as possible.
Stitch together using small stitches through both pieces of denim pulling in together, there's no room for a seam so keep it tight, remember this is just a quick DIY fix but it should hold for a bit.
Turn jeans to see how they are looking, as you can see there's not much fabric to play with so nice tight stitches will hold them together for a while.
Turn jeans inside out again, continue with small over stitching, alongside the pocket, removing the pins as you reach them,
Catch the edge of the denim pocket to give the torn fabric something strong to grab onto.
Here's the end result - not stitch perfect but they get a bit more mileage and there wasn't much to work with.
Close up view, you could also put a small patch of fabric across the inside, or catch some bias binding into the stitching to add some strength and give you something to sew into.