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.
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.
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.
I had some fun with this simple t-shirt embellishment.
It started with a a plain cotton Marks and Spencer t-shirt, bought last year in a charity shop for £1, intending to tart it up in some way .
Inspiration came from pinterest.
I selected a suitable button from my stash and drew a spider on some tracing-type paper so I could copy it onto the fabric.
The original post involves drawing legs around the button but I wanted to sew them. A patch of interfacing was needed to stabilise the back of the t-shirt where the spider would be sited. My idea was to sew through both paper and t-shirt with a contrasting yellow thread, then rip the paper off and be left with the spider transferred to the t-shirt. It didn’t work that well to be honest, the paper I used was too thick and the yellow thread difficult to get rid of afterwards.
The spider legs involved hand sewing on the basic shape with a running stich then hand sewing at 90 degrees over the legs with small stiches until it looked about right. If this sounds like quite a lot of hand sewing, it was, but I don’t mind hand sewing on this type of project, in fact I find it quite relaxing, also this method produced a sort of spidery hairiness on the legs.
It looks better with the button sewn over the top.
I sewed on some lace from my stash to complete the web on the neckline, again with hand stitches, and finally got the machine out to sew the spider’s thread, finishing off by tying the loose threads in a knot instead of backstitching.
The spider looks like it’s dangling towards the centre, but when being worn it hangs down straight.
Pleased with my efforts I showed it to my husband and he said it looked like a spider was hiding behind a button.
For my entry for the refashioners 2016, when I made a dress from jeans (see earlier blog post), I had made a toile for the bodice and although it was a bit rough and ready, had always intended to continue this to a dress in its own right.
The bodice was made from a pair of 100% cotton trousers by ‘no fear’ which I had bought at the end of a jumble sale when they were just desperate to sell anything and had a ‘fill a bag for a pound’ offer. The binding for the bodice was made from an old pillow case.
I looked through my stash for some suitable fabric to make the skirt and decided to use this the remainder of this long dress.
I bought this dress last year in an independent charity shop, I was attracted by the fabric and the amount of it.
Charity shopping tip: look to the floor
When I’m scanning the rails of any charity shop, it’s sometimes difficult to see everything because the items are tightly packed, so I always cast my eye to the floor to see if there are any long items with good fabrics, and that’s how I picked this out.
These independent shops are always the ones which throw up the best finds. The bigger chains have become quite expensive and the items for sale can be on the bland side. The independents tend to be less discerning about what they put out on sale. In this one I remember a particularly striking lime green leather jacket, which I wish I had photographed.
The dress was too small and revealing for me to wear but I’d bought it for the fabric anyway so I chopped off the top half and just kept the skirt.
I’d already used some of the fabric in an unblogged t-shirt refashion.
I needed a third element to have enough fabric to complete my dress and this time the stash turned up an unworn pair of white cotton trousers.
These trousers were left behind by a former girlfriend of my stepson, I don’t think she’ll be coming back to claim them. They are a good make and maybe I should have taken them to a charity shop instead of cutting them up, but in my experience the shops are full of items in small sizes whereas the buyers tend to be looking for bigger sizes so that’s my justification.
Its funny but various different girlfriends have left items behind, I’ve got a scarf, a jacket and 2 pairs of trousers, and a handbag, so virtually a whole outfit.
I wondered how best to fit the 3 elements together
I made some measurements and there was a difference of 20 inches in the bodice width and the skirt width so I cut 8 panel shapes from the trousers in the right length and shape to fill the gap, basing the length I was aiming for on my denim dress.
At this stage it was going so well I was almost tempted to keep it as a peplum top.
Finally, the tube of skirt fabric was added, and with a small amount of tweaking of the panels to improve the hang (making the front middle seam bigger), it was ready.
I wore this dress in a recent trip to Seville, the red almost looks a bit Spanish?
I altered 3 pairs of trousers in different ways to improve the fit.
This black pair were: too flared, too wide in the waist.
These trousers were given to me for free. The label on them has gone but they were from New Look, fairly thin fabric with some elastane content.
They are a basic pair of go with anything black work trousers.
The first step was a simple matter of reducing the flare via the inside leg seam, from the knee downwards.
I reduced the waist by increasing the seam at the middle of the back, a fairly easy job because there was nothing to get in the way.
When I do an alteration like this, I always worry about going too far and making the thing too small, because at work I want to stay comfortable, so the amount I took off the waist was quite modest. It proved to be insufficient so I added some extra loops for the hooks (loops were made from shoe laces), so the fastening has two settings.
The second grey pair were from an old style jumble sale. At the end of the sale there was a ‘fill a bag for a pound’ offer and these trousers were one of the components of my £1 bag. They are Sainsbury’s own brand, ‘Tu’, and the fabric is synthetic herringbone style with no stretch whatsoever.
This pair did nothing for my ego because when I tried them on, I found they were:
Too flared, no problem, fixed in the same way as the black ones.
Too long, easily fixed by cutting off the excess and hand hemming.
Too tight in the leg above the knee.
Hmm, As this fabric was strong and not going to fray I reinforced the serged seams by sewing along the base of the serger stitch and then unpicking both the main inside and outside leg seams to give me a few millimetres of extra room, which made the fit much better.
photo of leg seam before and diagram of after:
Unfortunately the waist was also too small.
Here I used a trick which always seems like magic to me:
Unpick most of the waistband, only leaving the edges near the zip opening still attached, increase the waistband size by up to 2 inches using, fabric cut from the trouser hem, re-attach the waistband and somehow even non-stretchy fabric on the trouser will accommodate up to 2 inches of extra waist room.
It looks a bit scrappy but it works, and I always wear tops that cover the waistband so no-one will see the scrappiness.
The third better quality ‘per una’ from Marks and Spencer 97% cotton 3% elastane. I paid very little, something like £1.50 from a local charity shop, and they didn’t look worn at all. I decided to take a chance on the rather odd colour, described as ‘deep magenta’.
They were too long, easily fixed, and too big in the waist, which I also thought would be easily fixed.
The waistband was complicated by pockets and decorative straps with buttons, but I successfully unpicked it, made it a bit smaller with some folding, made the trousers smaller by increasing the centre back seam, and re-attached the waistband, job done, or so I thought.
When I wore these trousers on a short test run to the shops, they were not right. The waist to crotch length was too long.
I messed about with the crotch seams but nothing worked. A google search revealed that the waist to crotch length needs to be reduced from the waist end.
This pair of trousers sat in my refashion pile for several months. I considered turning them into a skirt, then I took them out and bit the bullet and unpicked the whole waistband and re-pinned it to the top of the trousers. I didn’t cut any fabric off the top of the trousers , but instead of half a centimetre of trouser top being sewn inside the waistband, the top of the trousers now goes to right to the top of the waistband, taking a couple of cm off the waist to crotch length, and making the waistband somewhat stiffer than before.
I also added a couple of extra shoelace loops like on the black pair so I could fasten them tighter. I hope that finally does it, what I thought would be a fast fix turned into a something of a saga.
Bonus feature : Use it up and wear it out in 2017
It is my intention not to buy any more clothing for 1 year.
This was meant to be a new year resolution but when I thought back, I hadn’t actually bought anything new since 15th Oct so my year starts then, and I would rather call it a ‘use it up and wear it out’ theme than a resolution.
The point of this pledge is not to save money, or the planet, but to reduce the size of 0f my wardrobe by wearing out and then discarding what I already have, and if I do really need something I will buy it.
When I think about this, there are actually only a handful of clothes that I can remember throwing away in the last 12 months because they were worn out – some underwear, a couple of pairs of trousers and t-shirts, but not much. Does modern clothing deserve more credit than its ‘fast and disposable’ image?
I bought this long skirt because I was attracted to the large amount of fabric and attractive border and it cost me £3.49, which was 10% of the original, still attached, price tag of £35.
The fabric was 100% polyester and there was a short gauzy white underskirt which I ended up using for facings.
My plan was to make a top, using a pattern given to me by a friend, incorporating the border of the skirt and the original hem.
The fabric was very light and floaty and the brand was ‘Glamorous’, one I had never heard of. I looked it up and it appears to be an online shop of the type that claims to offer massive discounts. I don’t think that glamorous would have been my first choice of description for the original skirt though.
When I started cutting the pattern pieces out, it became obvious that this fabric was trouble. It slipped and frayed all over the place, even after weighing it down in every place possible.
My newly and expensively purchased ‘walking foot’ did help in the actual sewing though.
Here is the finished top. It will be good for travelling light because it takes up only the space of a light scarf and doesn’t really crease.
Bonus feature: Refashionables in Modern Art
On a recent trip to Tate Liverpool I was drawn to the above exhibit by Michelangelo Pistoletto entitled ‘Venus of the rags’ . The description describes the mound of clothes as ‘the detritus of modern society’ but I was thinking ‘that looks like a rather nice vintage scarf’