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How to embellish using patching

1st February, 2022   |   How To...Guides

Embellishing a top with fabric is a simple upcycling technique that can radically transform your garment into a super-cool new outfit.

Marina’s flying suit was the perfect conversion opportunity. It was a great shape and fit but had a few visible stains and marks. All it needed was a clever bit of patching to disguise the problem areas and create a bespoke, designer outfit. It was time to take the flying suit on a new journey.

How to plan and design your own patching

Getting the proportions right

You can go as crazy as you like with your fabric choice but, as a rule of thumb, I’d suggest patching a maximum 1/3 of the garment, leaving at least 2/3 of the base garment as it was. The balance you create means it won’t be overwhelmed by the additional fabric and your new patching will look like a deliberately chic design feature.

Choosing your fabric weight

Using fabric that’s a similar weight to your base garment will make your conversion easier and the end result will look more cohesive – but that’s not a hard and fast rule. You can still use Granny’s vintage scarf or a swatch from an old dress but make sure you do a transparency test first – you don’t want the base colour to show through.

Positioning your patching

You can patch anywhere to add interest or cover stains, rips and other imperfections.

Generally, attaching fabric from seam to seam makes it appear more integral to the overall design. I followed the line of the seams on the back of Marina’s jumpsuit and inset the fabric so it fitted perfectly within the boundaries of the seams. For a professional designer finish I suggest copying the exact size and style of the stitching of the base garment seams.

Tip: If your fabric is patterned think about using one of the colours elsewhere in a small way to reference and tie in your contrasting patch e.g. sew on buttons using the brightest colour from your fabric patch.

Making matching accessories

Always remember your ‘convertibles’!
Whatever you’ve got left can become an accessory. If you’ve got plenty of fabric, a simple tote bag and a skinny scarf are easy for your dressmaker to knock up and will add a super-polished, designed finish to the outfit. There are plenty of free patterns out there – here’s one to get you started. If you’ve only got a few square inches I like to cut these out using a template, stick a stud earring through the middle and create completely unique matching earrings. You will get noticed!

Do I need to be able to sew?

Never! These are easy changes which can be carried out by an alterations person at your local dry cleaner or dressmaker.

If you’ve got any questions or have any cool patching ideas, just leave me a comment below.

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