Lisa's customising battle at the Handmade Fair

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I thought you might like to read about one of the highlights of my year – my customising battle at the Handmade Fair. For those of you who missed it, me and Ben from Knit You Next Tuesday were competing against each other in an on-stage customising competition. It was part of the Mollie Makes Mash-Ups that were on throughout the weekend on the Super Theatre. We had 40 minutes to customise a white t-shirt in front of 600 people. Nervous doesn’t cover it! Here is what happened and steps on how to recreate my t-shirt customisation…

We were told to meet the lovely Lara Watson, editor of Mollie Makes, in the green room behind the Super Theatre 30 minutes before. The green room was a lovely tent at the back of the stage decorated with rugs, lamps and leather sofas. Very plush. On arrival we were offered tea and told to relax – not a chance that was going to happen! We ran through what was going to happen on stage with Lara and then Kirstie. Before everyone arrived we were able to set out our areas with all the bits we needed – I had prepped my fabric the night before – wanted to reduce the risk of an embarrassing 40 minutes!

We were then microphoned up and had a quick 5 minutes with Kirstie before we went on. Lara gave us a lovely introduction and we were then applauded by the audience as we came on stage. How lovely everyone was!

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Five minutes after getting on stage I relaxed and really got into it. Lara asked Ben and I questions throughout as we worked. Ben was hilarious and we had the best banter. The audience were so lovely, laughing along at Ben’s random stories and my shocked expressions! There was a team of camera guys filming what we were doing, although I tried to stop them from zooming in too close on my stitching – it wasn’t my best!

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When the 40 minutes was up, Lara asked to the audience to vote by show of coloured cards – I was in the orange corner and Ben yellow. There was a bigger flash of orange than yellow announcing my victory. What a relief! Although I felt bad for Ben. He was amazing and made the whole thing so much more entertaining. If it wasn’t for him, it would have been a lot more boring!

Thank you so much to Mollie Makes for inviting me to take part. I loved it. Like I said before this was up there with one of the year’s highlights. Below is a breakdown of the dress I created so you can have a go at it home.

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Firstly I put the t-shirt on the mannequin and tied a ribbon around the waist to find the natural waist. I then anchored this with two safety pins.

I untied the ribbon and removed the t-shirt from the mannequin. I used the safety pins as a guide and drew a chalk line across from one  pin to the other. I then cut the t-shirt along this line. At this point, if the t-shirt isn’t tight enough, you can take in the side seams so that is sits snug against you. I had done this already to make the on-stage bit easier.

I then measured across the cut edge of the t-shirt from side seam to side seam. I added 2cm for seam allowance to this measurement and then cut two strips that were this width plus 6cm deep. These were my waistbands.

For the skirt, I took the measurement for the waistbands and multiplied this by two to give myself a 1:2 ratio for the gathering. I cut two pieces this width and the skirt length deep (55cm).

I then sewed up the two short ends of the waistband, right sides together with 1cm seam allowance. I did the same with the skirt pieces, stitching the side seams together.

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I then ran a gather stitch along the top edge of the skirt, at 0.5cm and 1cm, leaving loose ends thread at the start and end.  I pulled the loose ends of the thread and gathered up the stitching. I took the waistband and placed it right sides together with the top of the skirt, matching side seams and adjusting the gathering to fit. I pinned in place and then stitched using the stretch stitch on my machine.

I placed the other side of the waistband with the bottom of the t-shirt right sides together and again aligning the side seams. I stitched this with the same stretch stitch and a 1cm seam allowance.

I asked the audience at this point if I should hem or add some buttons ,and then shouted: ‘Do the buttons!’, so I popped it back on the mannequin. I say popped but I actually had to force it on, breaking some stitches as I went! I finished with three buttons down the centre front.

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I had a few minutes left to unpick the gathering stitches and adjust the waist. It is still not hemmed and I think I will keep it like that as a memory of what happened.

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