Latest Event Updates
I bought this dress at a flea market in Amsterdam. It was a hand made faux wrap number with a buttoned down top section and a long zip placed in the centre of a side seam for entry and exit. The skirt portion was lined.
Most of the stuff on this stall was just piled in a heap on the floor with no one obvious in charge. My sister got fed up and sat down on a chair. She got asked several times how much things cost.
I noticed that better looked after on a rack were some horrible old seventies style track suits – surely these are not coming back in?
I was desperate to buy something and had a really long rummage. I was looking for a mainly white item with a reasonable amount of fabric so that’s why I picked up the dress.
Once I saw that it was handmade, that sold it to me, also the fact that everything on the floor was only 2 euros.
Once home and given a better examination the dress didn’t seem that great. The fabric, although pretty, was a kind of nylon crepe with a few pulls on the rear of the skirt – at least it had seen some wear. I don’t think I would have bought it in the UK.
When I refashioned this top a couple of years ago, I noticed how simple the design was and made a mental note to recreate it some time. That was the plan I had in mind for the Amsterdam dress, re-create this simple top from the skirt portion.
I unpicked the zip which had been sewn in by hand and cut the top part of the dress free from the skirt, this released a few pleats and the wrap. The best part of the fabric was underneath the faux wrap so I was going to use this as the front of my top.
I folded both white top and dress fabric and cut around leaving seam allowances. I was able to use the original neatly hand sewn hem of the dress as the new hem of my top.
The dress was made of panels and therefore had seams, which I placed to that they would be roughly in the position of princess seams on the front of the top.
I placed a dress panel seam at the centre back of the top so it could be opened later to make the neck closure.
I looked at the original to decide the order of work and first thing was to sew a small double turned hem around the arm holes, then the shoulder seams, then the side seams.
I decided to add a couple of open tabs at the sides.
For the cutting out, dress panel seam placement on the front of the top had been for symmetry, but although the ‘princess seams’ were not exactly in the right place, I was still able to use them to add a bit of shaping and improve the fit.
Finally, self bias binding finished the neckline, with one of the original buttons for the loop closure.
Washing, ironing and cutting into a new shape had done a lot for this fabric and I am quite pleased with the outcome. Its doubly satisfying to rescue someone else’s hard work from a pile on the floor and give it a new lease of life.
I picked up this dress and jacket at the same market – 2 euros for the set, because I liked the sunny yellow fabric and because it said ‘Amsterdam’ on the label. It looked either old or hand made – no washing instructions.
When I got it home, turns out it is an original 50’s or early 60’s piece, one label from the designer, one from the shop. Its made to fit someone with a 24 inch waist so never going to fit me, but now too good to refashion.
I bought this skirt on a whim for £7.99 from Oxfam, a bit pricey if you ask me, but that’s Oxfam for you.
It was originally from the mid range ZARA brand, I liked the colour and the style, it looked in pretty good nick in this year’s colour of purple.
There was one problem, it was in a size smaller than I normally wear, but I knew I could fix that.
I would normally wash anything on my normal cycle before working on it but the laundry instructions for this garment were, shock horror, ‘do not wash’ – silk, should have known. Well here was a dilemma, only a few days before a trip on which I wanted to wear this skirt. It didn’t smell, there were no obvious stains so I decided to work on and wear it as is ie unwashed.
The style was flared panels with a secondary flared band at the hem. Easy to make bigger just by shortening the skirt and therefore enlarging the waist a couple of inches.
Deconstructing a commercially produced garment is quite interesting. The waist of this skirt gave up various items of piping cord and binding tape as I continued to unpick it, they will be going in my stash.
In the end, weary of unpicking just cut through the top 1.5 inches of the top of the skirt, outer and lining fabric combined, but unpicked around the zip. This immediately unleashed the unruly nature of the slippery silk fabric and lining. The new waist was turned under by about 1cm a couple of times to secure it.
The skirt ended up a bit shorter but I am a bit short so this wasn’t a problem.
The lining ended up sticking out from under the hem a bit, so turned it under to solve. Those commercial manufacturers don’t miss a trick, I could see that the stich length was time and thread savingly longer on the hem of the lining.
The zip was tucked under and finished with a couple of hand stitches and it was ready to go.
I wore the skirt for the planned trip to Florence
Next to my fabric stash is a smaller but longstanding yarn stash. I’ve had some of this stuff for 20 years and asked myself ‘if not now, when?’
So I’ve been through a bit of a knitting phase and produced this from some brightly coloured 100% cotton yarn bought a long time ago.
I have 2 daughters and each gave me a pair of trousers to refashion.
The first (patterned) pair had a broken side zip. I tried these on hoping I could just replace the zip and they would be good to go. Unfortunately they were too small. They were from New Look, 71% viscose, 26% polyester, 3% elastane, made in Cambodia. The label was actually stuck in the zip.
The second (plain black) pair were a good fit but looking a bit worn. They were from George at Asda, and the fabric label was unreadable due to extensive washing but I would say they were mainly cotton with a similar elastane content to the other pair.
I decided to use a full length strip from the black pair to make the patterned pair bigger, using the ‘tuxedo’ method.
I have noticed that this kind of style is a common design feature in RTW, I even have some RTW running trousers myself which are like that.
I had never used this method before and did a bit of research before giving it a try – useful information was here
I unpicked the recipient trouser side seams but just cut a strip from the donor trousers from the side seam area. The strip was 3.5 inches wide, to include seam allowances. This was just a bit of a guess but as both fabrics had some elastane content I guessed it would work.
I don’t have a serger but I do have a reasonably good regular machine. Its a Janome décor computer and has 50 different stitches programmed in, most of which I have never used.
After reading some tip online about how to sew stretch fabrics without a serger, I studied the manual which came with my machine and found that 3 of the 50 stitches were in fact ‘stretch stitches’
Look at numbers 5 and 18 – they don’t look very interesting in a diagram but I they are both ‘stretch’ stitches and therefore interesting for my project. Number 5 is for seams, works like zig zag stitch but better because the seam lies flatter, 18 is a stronger stitch, ideal for jeans I thought. I will be using these stitches again and also reading more of the manual.
The method was quite quick and easy to use, I had it finished in a day which is unusual for me. Only issue was adjusting the tension for some of the thicker parts around the waistband.
I could just about pull the trousers up without any fastenings but adding a zip from the donor trousers made it easier.
I also added the back pockets from the black trousers.
After a bit of loose thread tidying they were ready.
I made a cushion to represent the 2016 referendum in which the UK voted to leave the European Union.
The cushion was based on the EU flag which features 12 gold stars on an azure background.
I used the correct dimensions of the flag to make the cushion but forgot about the seam allowances which makes the stars slightly bigger than they should be.
The stars were tricky, I had to buy a protractor and you can still see some of the tailors chalk used to draw them, which I am hoping will wear off soon
The main part of the cushion was made from a sweatshirt left behind by one of the gardeners in my residential development. He was probably eastern European.
The stars were made from a scarf given to me by my daughter who works in a residential home for old people. The scarf had belonged to a resident.
The black cross, representing the ballot paper, was made from a leather glove found on Piccadilly.
The four Union flag teardrops were made from a child’s hat found in Brockwell Park. The Union Jack is in this case part of the Australian flag but I wanted to work with what I had. The two internal drops represent Scotland and Northern Ireland, who voted to remain, and the 2 outer drops represent England and Wales, which voted to leave. All results were close.
The stars and teardrops were reverse applique and the cross was actual applique.
I also made some piping from the scarf to go round the edge of the cushion, that bit was just about sewing really.
In case you weren’t sure, I voted remain but think the result should be accepted and we should now get the thing done and move on.
I enjoyed making the cushion, its a match for my earlier kidney donation cushion.
I await a new major event in my life to inspire the next one.
The challenge this year seemed difficult, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tackle it, but as the inspirations started to appear I could not resist.
Once I’d started looking for suits in my visits to charity shops I discovered that there aren’t actually that many of them, and if you do find a suit it’s usually quite boring. I wasn’t going to be keen on making something I didn’t want to wear.
On a particularly productive visit to Tunbridge Wells, a town of many charity shops, I found quite a lot of good quality mens suits in the shops. Some of them had very nice linings and I started to think I could feminize the refashioned item with some of the fancy lining fabric, but in the end I didn’t buy.
My lack of buying turned out to be the right course of action because the very next day I spotted this skirt suit in my local charity shop, Geranium.
It was too small in size and too short in length but the blue denim coloured fabric with its inlaid pattern was more likely to be something I would like to wear than a man’s suit would ever be.
I am always interested in the type of fabric a garment is made of and its origin.
The whole world lives in London and this suit was made in France, by the Morgan de toi brand.
I think the fabric is like chambray but it has 4% elastane and the rest of it is not cotton. The pattern looks a bit like embroidery but isn’t, it’s more like an embossed effect slightly raised and not visible on the underside and unironable on the patterned side.
The jacket was lined and under the lining the ‘chambray’ was mostly covered with a black mesh glued in interfacing. During the deconstruction the interfacing was easy to tear off the back of the fabric but it did leave some dots of glue behind which I removed onto a cloth using a hot iron.
First thing I did when I got this home was wash the whole thing on my normal cycle. Best to get any potential shrinking done now.
The unwashability of fancy men’s suits was another thing that has steered me away from them. Top quality Italian wool is all well and good but if you can’t wash it in a machine then that’s a major drawback in my book.
I spread the jacket out and the bottom part of it looked a bit skirt shaped therefore it was going to become a skirt. I like skirts.
I realise that an actual ready made skirt was the other component of the suit but it’s dimensions were so far away from my requirements that I am afraid the role of this simple little skirt was to be donor fabric.
I cut the jacket all along the back just below the sleeves and unpicked the skirt seams. Laying these pieces together gave a long enough strip for the bottom half of an A line skirt. The sleeves could be cut into panels to make the top half of the skirt.
I made the top half of my new skirt first which, once I had worked out my panel dimensions was fairly straightforward. The sleeve fabric was plain denim colour with no pattern but I also incorporated a less patterned part of the jacket.
Next was to put together the bottom half of the skirt. I unpicked the hem from the jacket to give a bit more length and lined up the patterns from the skirt elements and sewed it all up into a long wrap like strip.
Now I had to attach the top and bottom halves of the skirt together
To try and make it look a bit more finished I decided to use a new (to me) technique of piping using a recently purchased invisible zip foot.
I was delighted to be able to use up some of the jacket lining to make the piping.
Apparently you can buy special ridgid piping interiors to make piping with. I decided to see if an old shoelace would work just as well – it did.
I rough cut a strip of lining and sewed it tightly around the shoelace. This zipper foot was good. It could even keep the slippery lining fabric under control.
Once the shoelace was encased I cut the lining down to the right size and sandwiched it between the seam holding the top and bottom parts of my skirt together.
As the shoelace was rather thick I left the end of it sticking out so I could pull the lace out of the piping once the sewing was finished – this worked for me.
I wanted the piping to lie downwards so I ironed the seam to face upwards.
I was so pleased with the zipper foot that I decided to keep it on for normal sewing because it was easier to guide the needle to the exact line I wanted to sew, and pins could be left in place because they were not in the way, however the zipper foot, being fixed rigid with no lift at the front like on a normal foot, did not cope well with any lumps and bumps. When it came to a join for example, it tended to stub its toe on any slightly raised element and I had to hike the tension right up before it would budge.
I haven’t yet mentioned the many times I tried on this garment. When I say ‘tried on’ I mean wrapped the strips around me to see what it was looking like. This is a vital part of any refashion I undertake. I am obsessive about it, usually sewing when home alone partly because it makes such a mess and partly because I am constantly taking my clothes off at each stage to try on .
The purpose of the trying on at this stage was to see which part of the wrap would hang best to use as the front. There was a problem in that the shaping of the jacket got in the way of the drape of the skirt. It really would have been better if I had just harvested fabric but I wanted to be more ‘authentic’ and retain some of the jacket seams.
I had also cut the fabric too wide but terrified of cutting too small, I always err on the side of wide and cut down later.
I stitched what was now a wrap of fabric together to make the skirt. A bit more seam tweaking and cutting down was needed to make it hang better and the right size.
I was going to use the original skirt zip but the 4% elastane gave enough stretch to pull this thing over my head so I missed the zip out and made a soft and comfy waistband with a strip of fabric left over from my previous project, treating it like a big strip of bias binding.
I had read a tip about using a strip of card to keep hems an even width and used this method to keep the waistband even.
All that remained was the hem. Unfortunately this contained two notches where there had been some grading of the jacket seam. I was intending to keep these notches as a ‘design feature’ because to get rid of them would have making the hem shorter and the skirt length was already at about the shortest I was prepared to tolerate. Alarm bells started ringing when my husband, who normally never notices anything about clothes, asked me if the hem was supposed to be like that.
This led me to infill the hem notches with some scraps turning them from design feature to hopefully invisible feature.
I removed the original label from the inside of the jacket collar and sewed it onto a visible place on the skirt, my aim being to fool some innocents into thinking this was a RTW designer item.
Reflections on this project are:
Negative : I could have bought a different item cheaper and made a skirt more easily if I hadn’t been constrained to buying a suit.
Positive : My charity shop wanderings were made more interesting by having a definite aim.
Negative : I already have enough skirts, many of them similar to this one.
Positive : Its fun to join in and I tried a new technique of piping.
Positive : Therefashioners always challenges me out of my comfort zone and I take more care with these projects than most.
Positive : This skirt is super comfy to wear because of the high elastane content, I would never have normally thought of making a skirt out of a jacket. I am even happy to wear it with a top tucked in.
Conclusion: More positives than negatives, I will be joining in again next year.
A friend gave me a number of items to refashion, one of them was this dress.
The fabric was a very light and stretchy 96% viscose 4% elastane, made in India.
The maker was the Spanish brand Indiwoman by individual.
My friend said she liked the fabric of this dress but it didn’t hang right, and when I tried it on I could see what she meant.
While not terrible, it was a bit too short and had an unflattering belly area. Also while I do like a wrap top I usually end up sewing them shut to avoid the inevitable bra revealing gape.
The shoulders and sleeves were good so I was going to keep them.
First stage was to unpick the seam at the waist to free up the top section.
I sewed the wrap front shut to make a regular V neck and trimmed off the excess.
Let me say now, I strongly believe in trying on at every stage of a refashion. When I don’t try on I make mistakes. I must have tried this top on about 20 times during the course of the refashion process and don’t regret any of them.
I was hoping to make a dress by adding an alternative skirt section. This was mainly because I already have a lot of tops.
I auditioned a rather attractive table runner bought in a jumble sale a couple of years ago.
Although tempted, and the resulting dress would have been dramatic, in the end I decided that because the fabric of the original dress was so light, there was a danger of it being pulled down by the weight of any heavier fabric. I also may not be brave enough to wear a table cloth out to dinner.
So it had to be a top.
I cut off the bottom section of the dress below the pockets. I know pockets are useful but not in a top.
Then sewed the bottom of the dress onto the now closed upper section, trimming some length and width to make it the right size.
I tried this new top on and it looked OK but a bit boring.
I rummaged in my stash for this trim, previously removed from a skirt waistband.
I draped it around the neck and it looked good, especially the way the point fitted the middle of the V.
After a few goes to get the trim to lie flat when being worn, I am now happy with the result, hope my friend is too. I am quite pleased the joins are not obvious.
I wore the top on a recent trip to Northern Ireland
Dress, too small and too short, fabric a very lightweight polyester, viscose 3% elastane mix with some texture, made in Morocco. There’s some difficult to see olive green in there as well as black and white.
Skirt, also too small and definitely too short, fabric 100% canvas weight cotton, broken zip.
Both items were originally from Primark, the epitome of fast fashion, and were given to me by daughter.
The plan was to combine them to make a skirt.
I was unsure at first if the two fabrics would work well together, because of the different weight and composition as well as the colours.
I decided to go for it, the heavier green cotton would be used to lengthen and add weight to the dress fabric.
First step, chop the dress
I know the cut is very high up the dress but I was unsure how much of the length could be used. I tried this bottom section on, and although it was still small, the stretch in the fabric provided quite a lot of give, it didn’t look ridiculous, (but maybe not suitable for a blog photo)
The green skirt had quite a deep hem, so this was to ripped open, then cut two as wide as possible strips to sew onto the bottom of the dress.
In the lengthening process it would be necessary to follow the flared shape of the dress, and as the skirt does not really flare I decided to make some pleats to make sure the shape looked right. The skirt was constructed of panels so there was a natural place for each pleat to go.
I sewed the 2 skirt strips together to make one long one, and hemmed it. Before turning the hem over, cutting into the serged seams to reduce bulk.
Finished hemline with pleats.
This adds a nice amount of length and weight.
The fabric is so lightweight and stretchy and does not fray. I am going to leave it as it is for now, just turning over the right amount for a supremely comfortable yoga type waistband. I’ll try it for a few wears and review the situation. Because the cut was made so high in the dress and above the natural waist, it seems to work without slipping down.