Customize a Jacket | The Great British Sewing Bee

Fans of The Great British Sewing Bee will be very familiar with the alteration challenge – this fantastic tutorial from Get the Most from Your Sewing Machine by Marion Elliott will show you how to add a handmade spin to an existing jacket to create a one-off jacket in your spring wardrobe!

Great British Sewing Bee Jacket

Got an old jacket that’s in good condition but looks rather tired, sad and outdated? Here’s a speedy way to groove it up with the minimum of fuss using simple sewing techniques. I’ve sewn a trim of contrasting narrow cotton tape all the way around the edges of the jacket to make it look more like a blazer, so that I can wear it with jeans and other casual clothes, and replaced the original buttons with more eye-catching examples. And to enhance it’s style and cut, I’ve added a half belt to the back of the jacket.

For your Great British Sewing Bee inspired jacket you will need:

  • Old jacket
  • About 3.5m (4yd) of 1cm (3?8in) wide cotton tape (for a medium-sized jacket) and matching thread
  • Iron
  • Tacking (basting) cotton and needle
  • Scissors
  • Buttons and contrasting button thread
  • Scraps of contrasting fabric and matching thread
  • Dressmaking pins
  • Needle
  • Scrap of felt
  • Small safety pin
  • Sewing machine


Great British Sewing Bee Inspired Jacket
If you’re starting from scratch rather than recycling one of your old jackets, look for one that has a good cut and decent fabric in an attractive, plain colour. Scour charity shops and markets for great bargains, like the jacket I’ve used here. It’s made from pure wool, is in great condition and cost me next to nothing.


1 Press under one end of the cotton tape. Position the tape around the edges of your jacket, about 3mm (1?8in) from the folded edge, and tack (baste) it in place. Tack (baste) tape around the lower edges of the sleeves and along the pocket openings too. Using the zipper foot on your machine and matching thread, very carefully machine stitch the tape in place, as close to the edge of the tape as you can. Remove the original buttons from your jacket and sew on replacement buttons in the same position, using contrasting button thread.

Great British Sewing Bee Jacket

2 To make the half belt, cut a piece of contrasting fabric 13cm (5in) wide and long enough to fit across the back panel of your jacket, adding 3cm (11?8in) for turnings. Fold the fabric in half, with right sides together, and machine stitch around the edges using a 1.5cm (5?8in) seam allowance, leaving a 10cm (4in) gap along the lower edge to turn through. Turn the belt through and slip stitch the opening closed. Press. Pin and tack (baste) the half belt in position on the back of your jacket. Machine stitch down the short sides to secure in place. Sew a large button at either end of the half belt.

Great British Sewing Bee Jacket

3 To make the corsage, cut a strip of contrasting fabric measuring 30 x 7cm (12 x 2¾in). Press under and machine stitch 1cm (3?8in) hems all the way around the sides of the strip. Change your stitch length to the longest setting and machine stitch along the top edge of the strip. Sew backwards and forwards a couple of times at the start, but leave the threads free at the other end. Pull up the free ends of the thread to gather the fabric.

Great British Sewing Bee Jacket

4 Continue to pull the threads up so that the strip forms a rosette shape. Hand stitch the threads into the end of the strip a few times to keep them in place, then slip stitch the edges of the strip together where they overlap.

Great British Sewing Bee Jacket

5 Cut a circle of felt about 1cm (3?8in) smaller all round than the corsage and sew it to the back of the corsage. Sew a safety pin to the felt to make a fastening. Sew a button to the front of the corsage as decoration.

Great British Sewing Bee Jacket

Great British Sewing Bee Jacket
I’ve used basic sewing techniques only for this project, but executed on the machine they produce sophisticated results. The zipper foot, which comes as standard with almost all machines, proves its worth by enabling you to sew as close as possible to the edge of the tape used to trim the edges of the jacket. And simple straight stitch on the machine’s longest setting is all you need to sew along a strip of hemmed fabric in order to pull the threads and gather it into a crafty corsage!

get the most from your sewing machineThis project was excerpted from Get The Most from Your Sewing Machine by Marion Elliott – perfect for beginner sewers! Get sewing now and let us know how you get on in the comments below.

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About Ame

Ame Verso is the daughter of legendary cross stitch designer Jo Verso and has been cross stitching since the age of 10. She also sews and crochets and is the face of the SewandSo YouTube channel.