Refashioners – Inspired by

I’m so excited to show you my project for this year’s Refashioners community challenge. The Refashioners challenge organised by Portia Lawrie was the first community challenge that I participated in when I started my blog four years ago. For a little throw-back you can read about the shirt refashion I did back then here.

This year the theme is “Inspired by” which means that instead of focusing on a specific garment to refashion the aim is to be inspired by a look and then to try and recreate it through refashioning any type of second hand find. Since I have more time for sewing than usual at the moment I decided I wanted to participate again. However, this brief is a tricky one. From years of experience with thrifting I know that it is impossible to go into a thrift store with a specific idea. Instead you need to go in with an open mind and see what’s available. So I went into this challenge with the attitude that I would only participate if I could find something that matched my vision. As soon as the theme was announced I knew exactly which look I wanted to recreate, the Bonnie Young dress that Daisy Ridley wore for her 73 questions interview with Vogue (you can watch it here if you are interested). I’m not really a party dress person, but I couldn’t get this one out of my head. The colour, the shape, the movement; I just loved it. But, would I be able to find something suitable to recreate this look?

I was visiting my sister in Chemnitz when I decided to check out some second hand shops and see what I could find. Amazingly I hit gold in the second shop I went into. This dress below might not look like much but I was perfect:

  • Made from a linen viscose mix it would take dye easily and the original fabric already was a grey/green so it wouldn’t distort the forest green colour I was going for.
  • It was several sizes too big, which meant that there was room to play around with the fit.
  • It had a back zip and other details which I could re-use.
  • The skirt was wide enough to create a voluminous ruffle.

The first thing I did was to remove the weird buckles and then throw the whole dress into a forest green dye bath. As expected the fabric took the dye beautifully and it came out in a nice dark green. Next I cut off the top part of the back bodice including the straps. The original dress has a lace up detail on both sides, which I removed, hoping that the bodice would not be too small when sewn back together without it. I hand basted the bodice together and amazingly the bodice fit like a glove (below a picture of the first baste fitting). No further adjustments were necessary, it’s like the dress was made for me! Situations like that are the reason why I love refashioning so much. There is nothing more satisfying than being able to re-use some of the original details of a garment.

The original dress had some lovely piping along the top edge and while I was able to preserve that feature at the front I lost it in the back where I had cut off the top part. So I unpicked the piping from the straps that I wouldn’t be using for anything else and re-sewed the top edge of the back inserting the piping. The straps for this dress are the ties from the original lace-up detail, so no need for making fiddly spaghetti straps, yay!

Next I moved on to the skirt, which I cut in half horizontally, keeping the bottom part for the ruffle. Then I had to make the top part of the skirt more fitted. I was determined to keep the back zip in place so I worked around it. The rest of the skirt, however, was detached from the bodice. I interfaced the skirt section to make sure it would keep the shape and that it would be able to support the weight of the ruffle. Then I added darts in the front and the back, aligning them with the princess seams of the bodice. I joined the side seams and cut off the excess fabric (keeping the leftovers to construct the waistband). Finally, I re-attached the skirt to the bodice, evening out the pointy shape of the front bodice in the original garment.

For the ruffle, I re-stitched the blind hem that was on the original dress as it had started to unravel. For the fringe detail I ran a line of stitching along the top and pulled out the horizontal threads. I didn’t know that making fringes is so much fun; I should definitely add more fringe details to my clothes! To attach the ruffle I hand-basted the gathers in place, using maths to distribute the fabric evenly. While that took longer than using two rows of stitching and pulling the threads to create the gathers, it gave me a lot more control and the gathers turned out nicely.

Since I didn’t have a lot of fabric left over, I had to piece the waistband, matching the seams with the front princess seams. The fringe is made from several strips of fabric that I sandwiched between the waistband and the bodice like a piping. Finally it was time to add the contrast stitch details. I believe the original dress uses some machine top stitching in yellow. However, I was keen to try out the sashiko needles from my Summer of Basics prize package and decided to do the details by hand. With some yellow embroidery floss, I stitched once around the whole waistband and twice along the fringe of the ruffle. When I was done I felt like there was still some detail missing on the waistband so I added two rows of stitching along the mid-line in a dark teal colour.

Et voilà, after many hours of unpicking, fringing and hand stitching I had my final dress. Is it exactly the same as the original? Of course not, I had to work with what I had (the colour doesn’t match exactly, the bottom ruffle isn’t wide enough and I took some creative liberties with the embroidery) but I would say it’s damn close. I squeezed out every centimetre of fabric and only had a small pile of random scraps left over. Also, I re-used as many details of the original dress as I could. So I would call this a big win.

Best of all, the final dress makes me feel as elegant and cool as I imagined it (a clear up-cycle). It’s the perfect amount of ruffle for my taste (However, too much for my husband still. His comment “why is there a curtain at the bottom of the skirt?” Haha.) and I’m surprised by how much I love the fringe and embroidery details. I’m so glad I participated in the Refashioners this year (I hear it might be the last time this is being hosted) and I’m excited to see what everyone else comes up with (the feed for the hashtag #therefashioners2018 on Instagram is already super inspiring). Thanks Portia for, once again, hosting a wonderful event!

And for everyone who has been thinking about participating, do it! The challenge runs until the end of the month so there is still time.

Handmades refashioned

I’ve always loved to refashion clothes. While I’m not doing it a lot anymore (making things from scratch is often less time consuming than refashioning them) I still love the process of turning something not quite perfect into a new favourite piece. This time the starting point are two handmades that I made last year but didn’t wear a lot.

First off the Megan Nielsen Dove blouse which I tested for Megan last year (here is the original post). While I was quite happy with the result and it got a decent amount of wear (even to a fun hen do) it never felt quite right. The pattern is lovely but for the testing I decided to follow the instructions to the dot, and some of the design features are just a little bit of a departure from my usual style.

First the sleeves; while I had a lot of fun experimenting with a new sleeve shape, I never really felt like they were me. This could have something to do with me being a little clumsy and having a tendency of dipping my clothes into food (just ask my boyfriend how often that happens, it’s a lot). So I decided I had to do something about them. Instead of taking them off completely I shortened them to around 12cm, gathered and re-attached them. And I have to say I love them. They are a lot more practical and the sleeve shape feels a lot more boho and less like a wizard shirt ;-)

Next the hem. The pattern has quite a pronounced high-low hem (I believe the tester version was more extreme than the final pattern). It felt kind of cool but a little bit awkward as well, so I decided to take off around 7cm at the back. I just used the same hem facing, which meant a little bit of butchering at the side seams, but nothing a little bit of hand sewing couldn’t fix. The back still is slightly longer than the front but it now feels more wearable.

The last thing was the neck facing. I originally hadn’t top-stitched it to keep the look cleaner (even though the pattern instructions give that as an option) and the facing just always kept peeking out. I hate having to re-adjust my clothes, so top-stitching it was and to be fair, with the print it isn’t even that visible.

So all in all, just some small changes that made a massive difference. I am absolutely in love with the blouse now, the light fabric and the loose cut are the perfect combination for a summer top. It perfectly matched my mood on the lovely spring weekend we just had. I am so ready for spring!

The second piece I refashioned was my jump-lotte experiment that I posted back in November. I wore it to a wedding of a friend and felt very cool in it. Still, the fit of the bodice wasn’t great, and in real life, how many occasions are there to wear a fancy culotte-jumpsuit? So I decided to cut off the top bit and make a pair of culottes out of them. Since the jumpsuit already had a waistband, this hack was super easy. I just shortened the invisible zip and finished the waistband with some grosgrain ribbon. I hope as a separate I might be able to incorporate them in my wardrobe a little bit better. I’m still not 100% sure about the shape, but who knows maybe this will be the summer of the culotte…

So that’s it. Half a day of work and two “new” pieces in the wardrobe. Not too bad right? Hope you are es excited as I am about spring and summer sewing!

The Refashioners 2015 community challenge

Refashion_1So here is the thing, I have never participated in a sewing-related challenge before, even though I love following them online. So when the Refashioners 2015 started I was really excited and loved reading the blog posts, especially because some of my favourite bloggers were participating. Still it took several calls for submissions from the community until I asked myself, why not join the fun? It’s not that refashioning is something I am not familiar with. I love flea markets and charity shops and have refashioned lots of clothes, mainly tapering jeans or shortening skirts but I tried my hand at a couple of men’s shirts as well.

So I decided to go for it and once I had made the decision I started plotting. I had a look at a couple of shirt refashions on Pinterest but quickly realised that I didn’t want to feel like I had copied someone else. So I went straight to the charity shop and tried to find a shirt that inspired me. Originally I had wanted to play with stripes (I just love Dixie’s shorts) but since I couldn’t find a nice striped shirt I settled for this chambray one. The shirt has a very nice quality with lots of details like cute little tags and embroideries. Since it was a size L and had long sleeves there was a lot of fabric to work with and I decided to make separates as I am loving the coordinated separates trend. I went for top and skirt as the shirt already had a nice curved hemline which would work well for a skirt.

Refashion_2   Refashion_3
In a first step I tried to figure out the shortest skirt length I could get away with and cut the shirt in half. Then I took off the sleeves and the collar. First I wanted to get rid of the collar but it just felt wrong to throw away something that was so beautifully constructed and I decided to use it as a design feature. I then interfaced all the skirt pieces to give it a little bit more structure. Using one of my favourite miniskirts as a guide I added darts in the front and in the back and took in the sides. For the waistband I decided to use the collar. As this obviously wasn’t a giant’s shirt (and I am not that tiny either) the collar was way too small to fit my waist. Looking at the rest of the shirt closely I realised that the cuffs had almost the same width. So I cut the collar in half, added in the two cuff pieces and the waistband was born. I kind of love the quirkiness it adds to the skirt, at the same time I feel like wearing a huge shirt around my waist and am tempted to add a bow tie to complete the look ;-)

Refashion_4To finish the skirt off I added another button hole to the bottom to avoid indecency and put the two pockets on the back. First I thought this might be a little bit too much but in the end I really like the 70s look it gives the skirt.

Refashion_5Refashion_6For the top I was left with not that much fabric. Even though I wanted to go for a cropped look, I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable with showing that much midriff (I find it rather fascinating that British teenage girls don’t seem to have that problem at all). Luckily the sleeves provided enough fabric to add a decency-hem to the bottom. I love the look of botton back tops but never make them due to all the effort they involve. This time the botton band was already there and I just had to use it. So I turned the top around, which left me with a slightly awkward looking front yoke. I’ve been seeing lots of tops lately with similar features but never felt drawn towards this look. Here I tried to embrace it and it is actually not that bad after all.

Refashion_7In the back I cut the strips from the sleeves at a slight angle and left the sides where they meet at the button band open. At the top I added one of the little buttons from the cuff to close it. It is still visible where the pockets were attached to the shirt, the fabric was slightly darker below and the holes from the stitches are still visible. It doesn’t bother me that much and I hope that with wear and washing the difference will not be that noticeable anymore.Refashion_8Refashion_9

So this is it. I have to say that this was by far the most elaborate refashion I have ever done (it took me one evening and one morning to finish it) and I really enjoyed it. I realised that with refashions I like to not have a detailed plan but let the garment and the different design features inspire me. I loved how one thing let to the other and that I ended up with two garments that I can see myself wearing a lot (however probably more as separates than together). Thanks Portia for giving me a reason to work on my refashion skills!