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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.
I had some pink flowery stretch jersey fabric in mind to make up a top using the Walkley pattern, originally given free with a magazine.
This design is very simple, just 2 pieces the same back and front, but the boat neck was a bit too wide the first time I made it. Other users of the pattern had also reported the same problem of a too wide neck.
Some adjustments were made to the shoulders and neck on the pattern which made the neck narrower. Before cutting out my flowery fabric, which was a rather small piece with no room for error, I decided to make up a toile to test if the pattern adjustments had worked.
Using a men’s t-shirt from my stash the upper section of the design was constructed, up to just under the armholes. I am glad I did this because further modifications were needed to correct some gape at the neckline, job done.
After a few days had passed, I wondered if there was some way I could make this practice half piece into a wearable item. I found a turquoise t-shirt in my stash, cut out the bottom part of the design, and sewed it onto the top half.
Clearly this was never going to produce a perfect result because you would normally sew the pieces together to make a complete back or front first. What really spoilt it was that the top t-shirt had a small white stripe in it and the stripe placement at the join hadn’t worked out well. At first I tried to re-sew the top and bottom halves together along a stripe but this just meant one side of the t-shirt was longer than the other.
The only answer seemed to be to cover up the mess in some way.
I had noticed that a lot of items in the shops at the moment have frills sewn on in a late 70’s sort of way. A frill in the middle of my creation would do the cover up job perfectly.
I cut out a strip of fabric 4 in wide from the turquoise t-shirt , hemmed it, and stitched it on, pleating as I went along, to make a frill.
The result is erm.. acceptable, it is never going to be anything other than casual wear but too good to go in the bin, I don’t like to waste fabric if I can help it even if its just a couple of old t-shirts.
The frill placement is not quite straight, so it covers the white lines, but its not very obvious when its being worn.
Here is the other top, for which the one above was a practice. It is made up in a flowery stretch knit fabric, bought in Norway last year. Its a photo like cherry blossom print.
There was some urgency involved in its construction because I was on holiday with a friend when I bought the fabric and was meeting her again very soon, so I had to get this top made quickly if I wasn’t going to miss a showing off opportunity.
It seems I am currently stuck in some kind of pale blue linen refashioning loop as the last item I tackled was also pale blue linen.
Inspired by the refashioners 2015 challenge, (refashion a shirt), I went looking for a good condition large size shirt to work on. The challenge had finished already but it had provided lots of fresh ideas.
The shirt cost £3.49 from a Salvation Army shop and was an extra large Marks and Spencer Blue Harbour range item in 100% linen, made in Bangladesh. It looked barely worn and was a nice sky blue colour.
The idea was to make some sort of simple loose linen top.
As it was plain blue, this other shirt in 100% cotton, given to me by my stepson, was going to be used to add interest.
Unfortunately this checked shirt was a small size and had lots of seams all over it. The pockets were also tiny and not much use for anything.
I cut off the arms and shoulders of the main shirt, sewed up the button placket, made new shoulder seams and ‘tried it on’.
Because there was plenty of spare fabric I had already decided just to sew up the button placket and cut it off, but was undecided whether to have the resulting seam at the back or the front. I went for the back ie the shirt would be refashioned with the back at the front, so the pocket had to come off.
Next step was to add a few darts from the neckline for shaping.
Linen is not the most difficult fabric to work with but it is not the easiest either. Its very good at fraying, and you can iron it but 5 minutes later the creases are back. Those darts gave me some trouble getting them even on each side.
I finished the neck with bias binding made from the checked shirt.
Having the back at the front meant the shoulder seams did not sit exactly in the right place but it didn’t look too bad and making the armholes smaller helped a bit.
I was going to add sleeves from the contrast shirt and actually made some, but they didn’t look as good as no sleeves. Bias binding it was then, to finish the armholes.
I made final adjustments to the fit by taking in more fabric at the back seam where the placket still sat, and a bit on the sides as well. When I was happy with it I cut all the excess fabric from the now very thick seams. I try to leave this trimming to the last possible moment in case a mistake has been made.
Finally I reduced the top to the length I wanted. As the top was so simple I made a curved hem at the side seams, using a small plate to draw the curve, but it would have been better if I’d made the curve less rounded. The contrast bias trim balanced the neckline.
Here is the finished top, 30 seconds after ironing.
I haven’t got any more pale blue linen left so my next refashion will have to be something different.
This top is a refashion of a refashion.
Here is the previous transformation:
This was one of my favourite refashions to wear, I liked the linen I liked the blue, I liked the check trim.
On its last pass though the laundry I decided the armpits and rope neckline were too worn to be seen out in public again.
I had an idea to replace those worn out elements with some contrasting pink fabric (also linen but with a slightly closer weave) from my stash, and also set myself the challenge to complete the whole thing in 3 hours which is quick for me.
The first step was to cut off the worn out elements which just left a short hemmed and finished tube.
I sewed on a couple of fabric panels to lengthen the tube roughly the right size to have enough fabric to make a simple straight up and down top.
At this rough and ready stage I ‘tried it on’ get an idea where the join was going to fall, I didn’t want it to be on the bust apex, and to find out where the armpits should be.
I sewed up the sides and top of the pink bits to make rough armholes and a neck, then tried on again. Some unpicking and readjusting was involved to get things in the right place ( I had anticipated this and not backstitched) and I obviously needed to do something to develop the neckline.
For the neck, which was currently much too high, I marked the centre front and cut down a 2 inch slit which was then folded under like so. I re-attached the Superdry label for interest as it seemed to look right with the point of the triangle at the middle of the neckline.
For the back of neck I cut a shorter 1 inch slit but folded under in the same way, creating a sort of diamond shape for the neck. Its a bit rough on the inside but it will do. I considered folding the fabric to the outside to make a collar but this would be more time consuming and more likely to go wrong.
Finally, I hemmed the armholes using a zig sag stitch, took the side seams in a little to make the fit a little snugger and added a few hand stiches in some places to tidy up.
I quite like this experimental method of making by continuous refitting and the whole process was quite quick.
I already like this new version of the old tunic.
I made a new bag for taking to work. As my job is 12 hour night shifts, the bag has to be big enough to fit generous supplies of food, drink, clothing and entertainment in.
The dimensions were based roughly on my old bag, bought new a couple of years ago from a local shop. It looks OK in the photo but has already been subject to a few repairs, has been washed a few times and is looking a bit past it.
I had some fabric in mind bought at a jumble sale last year very cheaply, probably meant for curtains, it is some kind of open fairly thick linen. I got rather excited to see some actual fabric on sale and snapped it up without a plan.
I needed a contrast fabric and this pair of trousers BNWT left behind by a passing girlfriend of my stepson, seemed to work well. They were a similar weight canvas 100% cotton in bright turquoise and the pockets could be used for my signature 2 pockets made into one for the front of the bag.
I cut 5 pieces the sizes and shapes I needed using measurements taken from the old bag.
I haven’t made a bag like this before so it was a learning curve and I wanted to do it properly so heavy duty interfacing was applied to the main pieces .
The interfacing didn’t seem to stick that well so I ended up sewing it in, leading to a visible extra line of stitching that I will have to live with.
There was also going to be a lining.
This used to be a long skirt, previously used to make a top. The original charity shop skirt was the last item of clothing I bought before giving up shopping for a year, I have another 6 months to complete the no shopping year.
The lining fabric was slippery and unpleasant to work with. The top previously made from it …..
doesn’t quite hang right because something went slightly wrong in the cutting out and although I do wear the top, am always aware of its failings.
I remembered a tip about spraying slippery fabrics with spray starch to make them easier to work with. I didn’t have any spray starch but did have hairspray and this worked surprisingly well. I sprayed each piece before sewing and it made quite a difference, and made the pieces smell nice.
I wanted an internal and external pocket and these were sewn on to the relevant pieces first, bearing in mind where their final placement was to be once seams and handles were taken into account
The next stage was to sew up the base and side pieces into one strip, then attach the front and back.
The handles were interfaced and I used a few hand stitches at the internal corners to keep the lining held in place.
I am almost looking forward to going to work to test this bag out.