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
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.
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.
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?