Helen’s closet Pona jacket from upcycled jeans

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If asked what my favourite stash fabric was the answer would be used denim. When offered an old pair of jeans I can’t say no and used jeans were starting to dominate my fabric pile.

There was also this vintage Laura Ashley curtain fabric, 5 metres bought for £8 in a charity shop. I’d already made a dress from it but there was a lot left.

Two pairs of jeans and some of the Laura Ashley fabric were used to make my Pona.

It always makes me feel slightly guilty that you can never make a garment from just one pair of jeans, it always takes two, but then there are some areas you would like to avoid like the crotch (usually worn) and the knees (stretched into a knee shape) and jeans only come in long narrow pieces, and I did have 7 pairs of jeans waiting for a new life.

Selecting a small pair of Levi’s for the collar and facings, and a lighter coloured Marks and Spencer pair for the sleeves, the rest was to be completed in the flowery fabric.

The Levi’s had a small amount of stretch which I didn’t think would make any difference but it did actually stretch out a bit when being sewed to the other fabrics which had no stretch.

The jacket was quick to make up, you could easily complete it in one day. It took a long time to tape the PDF pattern pieces together though.

I finished the edges with zig zag but binding would have been better for the facing edges at least. Many sewists have bias bound all the edges and that does look neater.

Having originally planned to use the back pockets of the Levi’s as the jacket pockets I changed my mind because I thought it could look a bit too busy and in fact omitted pockets altogether.

Although the instructions are very clear I wasn’t sure about the facing construction and the collar/facing/jacket sandwich and had to watch a sewalong from Penguin and Pear dressmaking.

The Levi’s tag was tucked into the collar – can’t resist details like that.

The machine hemmed sleeves didn’t look great so added a trim from my stash which was hand stitched over the seam and learning from this mistake I hand stitched the main jacket hem.

I am very pleased with this make and am sure it will be a very useful addition to my wardrobe. Also I used my favourite fabric.

I wasn’t sure how warm a short unlined jacket without fastenings would be but the double layer from the over sized facing adds weight. It’s possible I may add some sort of fastening though because the Pona does tend to blow open annoyingly in the slightest breeze.

Having never owned a jacket this short or without fastenings before its a departure from my normal style but I was keen to sew a jacket as it was one of the few gaps in my wardrobe and therefore justifiable right?

I normally have some dilemma about which size to make and whether to do a FBA but as the fit is loose, went with the suggested method of choose a size on the basis of high bust measurement and cut that size straight (in my case size 14) and its roomy enough to take another 2 or more layers underneath.

Rucksack replicated

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I’ve had a lot of use out of this rucksack.  It’s travelled many miles with me but after 2 repairs already is now coming to the end.

I decided to sew a new one, which would make a good project for using stash items.

I made some pattern pieces from drawing and measuring round the old rucksack.


I am a fan of denim and something of a denim hoarder,  finding it hard to pass by a good looking pair of jeans in a bin for instance, so denim was always going to feature, including my signature double pocket pocket.  The other main fabric was a thinner synthetic zebra print from a weird coat dress.

It became a stash busting fest, as I also used some Dutch wax for lining, an old felted jumper for padding the back and straps, and a checked shirt for bias binding.


The only new item was the zip as I didn’t have one sturdy and long enough.  I really should have used the zip from the old rucksack but didn’t want to be in a no rucksack at all situation.

The design was simplified by making only one compartment, and by making fixed straps. I tried the rucksack on with and without a jumper and the fit seemed good.

My walking foot was essential for sewing through several thick layers of fabric, which it managed to do quite impressively.


Unusually for me I decided to tidy up the bag interior by bias binding the seams, and it did improve the look.


I did prepare a carrying handle but haven’t added this yet, partly because I saw someone with a 2 handled version on my way to work which looked good and I was going to copy that but now am not sure and will try the bag without a hanging strap – it was mainly the dangling adjustable straps that got in the way of carrying my old one by the shoulder straps and as this bag doesn’t have them, carrying by the shoulder straps may be a better experience.

Refashioned Denim top with pocket

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Denim is one of my favourite fabrics to refashion.  It improves with age, and jeans have pockets and other details which can come in so useful.  Denim also goes well with almost any other fabric, in fact it looks better when combined with other colours and patterns.

I have no before photos for the above top but really I just used the before items as fabric.  The front came from 2 pairs of jeans, obviously, both fairly lightweight denim with 2% elastane .  In fact I made a mistake with the pattern and forgot to flip it over when cutting out the second half, I had intended to use only one pair of jeans.

The sleeves were made from erm.. a girl’s dress which I found in the street. People here often leave things spread out on their garden walls as free stuff for others to take  –  its a stretchy knitted fabric. Other items that were left out were mainly toys.  They would probably be surprised if they knew the eventual fate of the dress!

The back of the top actually was fabric, 100% cotton bought from a local market.

The top was based on this pattern which I have used before


Bonus feature:

I was delighted to see some vintage linens feature in the Turner prize this year.


This entry by Helen Marten was the eventual winner.




Jeans to dress refashion

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Refashioners 2016


This will be my entry for refashioners 2016.

I don’t really wear jeans.  My reasons are that they are too tight, and  I don’t like wearing tight clothes, the fabric is too heavy and stiff, which makes them uncomfortable, and  waistbands normally sit right in the middle of my stomach area, which cuts me in half when I sit down.

I do, however, like  denim fabric

I have made a number of household items from denim –  tea cosies, cushions etc



but as yet, no refashioned clothing.

With refashioners 2016  in mind I bought some jeans from Traid for £4.



They were having an ‘everything £4 ‘ sale.  The jeans are a size 18 Tommy Hilfiger, 99% cotton 1% elastane, made in China and are quite nice and soft with a bit of stretch and a large amount of fabric.



I looked them up, these jeans could easily have cost £50

The brief I gave myself was to make a dress from a pair of jeans using as much of the jeans as possible.

I did a lot of unpicking to the point of having 2 large leg pieces, pockets and waistband.



I had a vague idea of an empire line dress but also went round the shops for inspiration. This was the kind of thing I had in mind.


I decided to attempt pattern drafting.

Using pages out of a magazine to draw round myself in a mirror probably isn’t the best method.



The bodice pleats and neckline shape just sort of morphed out of what I needed to do to make the pieces fit, there wasn’t much vision and planning involved.

In the end I set the bar no higher than making something that fit.

I made some adjustment to the pattern and cut out the denim pieces.  I placed the centre front of the bodice on the jeans seam but the other pieces were placed any old how to make them fit, but approximately on the grain, give or take a few degrees.

One of the refashioners said she didn’t want to make something that looked like it was cobbled together from an old pair of jeans – Oh dear, that was something like the look I was actually aiming for.


I had made a toile but from a fabric with no stretch whatsoever, so even after going to that effort several adjustments were needed in the denim version.

The toile got abandoned at this point due to lack of time and because I now wanted to make it into a wearable garment with a different skirt design.

The bodice was now starting to take shape, next stage was to add the waistband, salvaged from the jeans.  It had to be cut down a few inches which I did in 2 places to avoid excessive bulk.


I added home made bias binding to the neck and armholes.  This was made from fabric  bought in a local market.  That market stall is no longer there and has been replaced by an artisan bakery.  Some people call this progress, some call it gentrification.

By now there wasn’t enough denim left to make the skirt, and someone who had planned this better would have made the larger skirt pieces out of the larger pair of jeans but luckily I already had a pair of flared jeans in a similar denim which had been given to me by my daughter, which would do the job.

I had already used the waistband of the second pair of jeans for an earlier project.


I laid the pieces on the bed to get some ideas, then stitched the legs onto the bodice.  The skirt was beginning to look very much like the classic jeans to skirt refashion.


The original Tommy Hilfiger jeans still had enough fabric left to make two triangles to fill in the front and back, I had to pare down the flare  to make this work.

I wasn’t going to cut up a third pair of jeans so for the side fill in panels I used more of the trim fabric.


I used both back pockets together to make one large pocket, which needed a stitch or two in the middle to avoid gape.


This pocket turned out to be my favourite feature because it was the perfect size to hold passport and boarding pass, and the middle stitch at the top gave extra security.

I was in something of a rush to finish this off because I wanted to wear it on holiday (Croatia) and would have probably added more jean details such as the coin pocket somewhere,  and back pocket lapels, but at 2am before the holiday I had to call it a day.

I have to say I am really pleased with it, this dress may not be the most original make, and I am full of awe for some of the artistic and imaginative designs that other bloggers have produced.


The slevelessness made it cool enough to wear in warm temperatures and it provided just the right amount of fit shape, comfort and practicality for me.

A denim dress made a very practical holiday item because it could be worn several times without needing a wash, or I shoud probably say, showing the dirt.


And I shamelessly got my daughter to model it for me.


All refashions are unique, and there are improvements I could make to this dress if I were to repeat the process but then again I would be using different jeans so who knows, different mistakes may be made.


With such a  great variety of inspiration from therefashioners, I’ll probably be making more use of denim in the future.