Have you heard about the Refashioners Challenge before? I had vaguely heard something about it last year, in the days before I had a blog, and I never really looked into what it was all about. Then just last week I saw a link to the blog, The Makery, and it caught my eye, especially as last week I was posting about my latest refashioning project, and since taking part in Fashion Revolution, I have pledged to become more conscious in my wardrobe. I took a look at what the challenge is, and I have decided that I am going to be taking part this year!
The gist behind the Refashioners challenge is taking something that we usually toss out, (basically an end of life garment) and turning it into something new, but it is not a simple challenge- oh no there are guidelines! Last year’s challenge was a men’s button up shirt, which people made some great things from! This years challenge is: jeans. Basically it is wide open- take a pair, or multiple pairs, of jeans, and refashion them into something new.
But I think that the challenge this year is going to make us all work for that prize! Jeans are a tough one for me, as there isn’t much fabric to work with, and I don’t really wear denim all that much. I used to live in jeans, but since converting to a vintage style of dress, I hardly wear them anymore. Not that you can’t have vintage style denim- I’ve just never found any that fit yet, and I’ve not gotten around to sewing any yet.
So, I had to think long and hard about what I could make from a pair of jeans that:
1. Would use such a minimal amount of fabric
2. I could piece, without it ending up looking like a hippie patchwork. Other people totally rock that style, but I wouldn’t like to wear it myself.
3.Which brings me to- would I actually wear it? That would be the key- something I would want to wear afterwards. As that is pretty much the whole point of refashioning 🙂 I am not a fan of the faded, washed denim style, so any jeans I use, will need to look fresh, not faded, and I will need to be able to make them into something that doesn’t look too “crafty” if you know what I mean.
But the thought of overcoming the challenge, the satisfaction of refashioning something old into something new, being part of this online community, and- oh yeah- the amazing prize packages, really drew me in and so I decided that I would join in.
The challenge runs until the end of September, so if you are thinking of joining in you’ve still got plenty of time! (Did I mention the amazing prize packages yet???)
I’m not giving any hints yet as to what I have decided to do, and I am still in the planning stages- as I need to hit up a thrift store for the perfect pair of jeans, (remember I don’t have any old pairs lying around!) but it is definitely going to be vintage inspired. I am going to try and keep as many original denim details in the final design, so that it is obvious that it was a refashioned piece, hopefully without making it look too “crafty”.
Oh, and of course, this challenge would come along, right as my summer/fall gets busy, so the pressure is on.
Time to get sewing!
Have you heard about the Refashioners Challenge before?
Are you planning on taking part?
No, I am not making any of these things, I just wanted to include a picture of sewing related stuff!
Do you ever have an idea of a project, and then when you do it, for one reason or another it doesn’t turn out anything like the original plan?
I got this dress a few years ago (yes. . . years) from the thrift store, with the thought that I would refashion it into something a little less “1980’s bag lady”. However, time went on, and I could never quite figure out what to do with it, as there never seemed to be enough material to do anything with. I loved the gingham print, though, and the fabric was rayon, which I would much rather prefer to the poly/cotton blends that all gingham seem to come in. So, I didn’t give up on it, and finally, a few weeks ago, when the canola was in full bloom and I needed something to wear in the field, this gingham came to mind: it was the push to finally do something with it!
My first plan was a simple dress, like this sketch below. Simply remove the sleeves, dart the bodice in, hem it to knee length using the excess fabric from the hem to create a tie belt, and add some eyelet lace. It would be easy and simple and wouldn’t take too long.
(Something like this, minus the ruffles. I love the ruffles, but didn’t have enough fabric)
Yes. Well. Nothing in life is easy, and most definitely not refashioning garments. So, here I outline how I ended up, not with a sleeveless dress, but a pinafore instead. (And in the process, reveal all the wonky bits that didn’t turn out quite as nicely as I would’ve liked them to!) 🙂
The first step, was removing the sleeves and fitting the bodice. This was easily done, however there was a malfunction when I fit and cut the armscye. (Which, by the way, is the curve of the armhole, and is pronounced arms-eye. In case you didn’t know that already. I didn’t know that for the longest time and was going around tongue twisting “arm-sky”, or “arm-sis”, which are not correct in the least. So, now I have saved you embarrassment, or maybe I have just embarrassed myself, I’m not sure which.) I cut the new armscye shape, and the cloth shifted when I cut it, and it ended up too low on one side. . . and so basically the bodice was ruined. Ooops.
So, now that the armhole on one side was too low, I wasn’t sure what to do. I thought about it for a while, and then decided that gingham would be perfect for a pinafore, as a pinafore doesn’t have armholes anyways. So, on to plan B!
I was looking through some of my sewing books, and through some vintage blogs. I came across the picture above of a yellow gingham pinafore style dress which I liked, from one of my sewing books, and I also remembered this dress from that Solanah of Vixen Vintage wore a few years back that I had on my list of ‘dresses to make”, and I thought that I could make this dress work.
I ended up picking apart the bodice on the sides, and detaching it from the skirt, so I had two flat pieces to work from, rather than a partially constructed bodice (as that had already been proven to lead to disaster). Once I had the two pieces flat, I cut the neckline straight down at an angle, basically just cutting out the rounded corners, measuring each side to make sure they were even. (The straps were 2″ wide.)
Then, I cut out the new sides, leaving 4 inches up from the waist, which would form a fake “waistband’ on the side. I cut it at 4″, which allowed for 1/2 seam allowances on top and bottom for a finished 3” side panel. Remember to leave seam allowances for all of your seams. With this project I used 1/2 inch as I didn’t have much fabric to work with. For reference, the finished bib width is 13 1/2″ at the outer top edge of the straps, and is 9″ wide at the bottom (where to the two yellow lines form a right angle in the diagram above).
I left the side pieces as a waistband, even though most pinafores don’t have a side panel. A few years ago I sewed a pinafore and it ended up looking so much like an apron that I actually ended up turning it into an apron. For the longest time I couldn’t quite place my finger on why it looked like an apron instead of a dress, and I have come to the conclusion that it is because the sides were completely removed. By leaving a couple of inches, it gave some structure for the skirt, and it looked more like a dress. Because even though a pinafore is an apron, I don’t really want people to think that I am actually wearing an apron.
After I had finished cutting the bodice pieces, I traced the shape and cut out two pieces of lining fabric, lining the entire bodice so that all the seams would be encased.
(This refashioned dress I made a few years ago, used the same technique as I did for this one, only instead of cutting the sides and neckline square, I curved them, so you can see how you could use this technique for a different style of dress)
Once the bodice was finished, it was time to attach the skirt. At this point, I discovered that the fabric had, over time, stretched out of shape, and the front button placket no longer hung straight. I also discovered that when the fabric had initially been cut, it was cut off grain. This was noticeable as the gingham pattern revealed the fact, but there wasn’t much I could do to square it up, without sacrificing too much material. So, I left it: I wasn’t concerned that it would shrink, as it was a pre-owned and washed garment. I made the decision to remove the button placket on the skirt and just leave the four decorative buttons on the bodice. Once the skirt was gathered and sewn to the bodice, I inserted a side invisible zipper. I would have liked to have used a white zipper, but I did not have one and the local store doesn’t sell invisible zips. So, I used a navy zipper, which worked out ok- it’s on the side anyways, so is not super visible. I was really in a “it’s now or never” state of mind at that point (two days in). If I had to place the dress to the side, I don’t think I would have finished it, with the amount of frustrations I had already had with it. That, and the canola was in full bloom, and I needed the dress now, not next week when it would be too late!
Now the dress was almost done, and needed only to be hemmed and lace attached at the bottom. This was the part where I was tempted to cry tears of frustration. Remember how I said that the cloth had stretched and warped over time? Well, it was completely out of whack, and I couldn’t straighten it along the pattern. I tried measuring down, I tried measuring from the edge, and every time I pinned it, it was crooked and hung down in the back or the side. And nothing makes a garment look worse than a crooked hem. (Unless I suppose it is a train, and is done on purpose, which in that case is great!) Finally, after pulling out all my hair (oh and did I mention that I was doing this at 12:00 at night?) I decided to measure up from the floor, like those hem markers do. I placed the dress on my mannequin and measured up with a yardstick, pinning and pressing it into place to see if it worked- and it did! So, as you can see the hem does not follow the pattern of the gingham, but it is straight from the floor! And as long as I stand on level ground it will be so 😉 I decided that I would rather have a straight hem, than worry about the pattern of the fabric, and as it is at the hem, no one is going to notice it anyways. Well, I guess now you will. Oops.
The last step was attaching the lace to the hem, adding the pocket, and then changing the buttons to white, as the other ones looked a bit dingy with age. I made the pocket out of one of the sleeves, and edged with the same eyelet. There were originally supposed to be two pockets, but the measurement was off, and it would have run over the zipper. So, I decided the dress was good with just one pocket, and called it done! I placed the pocket at an angle, as the fabric squares wouldn’t line up, and also so you could see it on such a busy background.
Whew. Somehow this project rapidly went from a quick and easy alteration, to three days of tears and frustration! But, it worked, and I am satisfied with it, as it turned out looking a lot like the 1940’s style pinafores. And, for all of the headache it caused, I love that my “new” dress is also keeping one more garment out of the textile waste cycle.
(Oh, and we got the pictures in the canola field too, which is why I started this whole escapade in the first place!)
Do you ever start projects and have to change to plan B, C or D partway through?
Do you like refashioning garments, or would you rather start from scratch?
This could also be titled as “The World’s Easiest Skirt Pattern”. 🙂 When I sewed up my dutch wax print skirt, and refashioned my black floral, I realized just how much I love pleated skirts. After completing Me Made May, I decided that I needed more of these skirts in my life as they are so easy to wear, and are comfortable and practical for everyday. When I was deciding what fabric to use, I remembered this vintage sheet I picked up a a flea market a couple of months ago, so I decided to recycle the fabric into a skirt. I absolutely love the pattern on the fabric- is it just me or were vintage linens so much nicer than today’s?
I used the same easy method as the other skirts, which pretty much involves creating a curved waistband to fit your waist measurement, plus seam allowances. I have found that a slightly curved band is better than a straight rectangle, as bodies are typically not straight, so if it is curved in, the waistband will not gape on you. I didn’t use a pattern for this, I seriously just “eyeballed” the curve for this band and traced to create a mirror image for both sides. To this, I cut a front and back rectangle, and pleated it into the waist circumference (no real math at play, just pleating and fiddling until it fit!) To create something different, so all of the garments in my wardrobe are not exactly the same, I decided to add ties to the waistband this time. I think they give a bit of a fun twist. I sewed the two ties separately, and then inserted them between the zipper (which I had saved off another garment, hence the title of this post) and the waistband when sewing them together. Thus, the raw edges were encased, and the ties wrap around to the front. The skirt took me only about 4 hours start to finish. Well, not including the time that it took to cut the material, I guess. When I went to lay out the fabric, I discovered that somewhere along the way someone had used this sheet as a dropcloth or something, and there was orange paint splattered across it! I had to do some strategic measuring and cutting to avoid all the splatters- but it was successful, as none of the paint shows on the final garment! The joys of vintage material I guess. 😉 I actually love projects like this as they recycle something that would otherwise be discarded. The skirt turned out nicely and qualifies as a Make do and Mend garment, I think, as well as almost being vintage, as the materials to make it were. . .
So, onto the outfit! The skirts debut, the very next day, was for an afternoon of shopping on Edmonton’s Whyte Ave. My best friend came for a visit (as I already mentioned before), so we took the opportunity to go shopping, and Whyte Ave is a pretty fun place filled with lots of lovely little shops and restaurants. (I also found the best little store called Rowena, which carries a whole host of vintage reproduction brands I’ve never been able to find in a brick-and-mortar store! I was like a kid in a candy shop- and I have an outfit post with the dress I bought, next week!)
We had a lovely time shopping, but I didn’t get any outfit photos while we were there, which is too bad as there are so many historical brick buildings that would’ve served as a nice backdrop. I was too busy catching up with my friend, though, to stop for pictures, so we got these pictures later. I paired the skirt with a modern ruffled blouse, and my lovely vintage straw boater I got at an antique sale a few years ago. The lining in this hat is so shredded I can barely pick out any of the label, the only words left read “Knox New York”. I did a google search and came up with this article about the Knox hat company, but as it appears they made men’s hats, I’m not sure of the history of this piece. It is lovely though, and in very good shape too, despite the label being in disrepair. I would’ve liked to have paired this outfit with my cognac kiltie loafers, but as they are not broken in yet, I thought an afternoon spent walking would be better suited to my tried and true brown flats. Sometimes style must be sacrificed for comfort, as much as I hate to admit it 🙁
Anyways, I’ve already worn this skirt several times since I made it, and it is quickly becoming a favourite in my wardrobe. Do you ever find yourself gravitating towards sewing or wearing the same things over and over again?
Hat- vintage from an antique sale
Skirt- made by me out of a sheet from a flea market
On April 24, 2013 the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,134 and injuring over 2,500 people. This week, to raise awareness about the global fashion industry, in memory of this terrible tragedy, and to ensure that it never happens again, I am participating in Fashion Revolution. (Look I even got instagram so I could take part!)
The idea behind this event is simple: look at your labels, ask the brands of your clothing #whomademyclothes? We need to be aware of the fact that all of our clothes are made by someone, somewhere, and we play a part in ensuring that those people work in safe and fair conditions. We can demand better care and safe working environments for the people who make the world’s clothes.
Personally I never used to think much about where my clothes came from, or who made them- they just appeared at the store as far as I knew. Who spun the threads? Who dyed the fabric? Did the people who sewed them work in safe and responsible conditions? These were not questions that crossed my mind. I thought that sweatshops and horrific tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911, were a thing of the past.
I first became aware of the reality behind cheap fashion, when I read Elizabeth Cline’s book “The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion”, but it was the Rana Plaza collapse that changed my view of the fashion industry and really made me aware of the secrets that lay behind the tags on our clothes. Suddenly tragedies were not outdated, and the fashion industry had a face behind it. 1,134 people died that day. These were mothers, sisters, brothers and families suddenly gone, because of unsafe working conditions, in order for wealthy consumers to be able to buy cheap clothing. The garment and textile workers are the ones who ultimately pay for the insatiable appetite consumers have for fashion.
And that is why I decided that day, that I would not participate in the cheap fashion trend anymore.
Yes, it can be depressing to hear about the devastation taking place in the name of fashion. Yes, it can be difficult to find fair trade clothing. Yes, it can cost you more money. Yes, it can be frustrating to try and fill your wardrobe while avoiding cheaply made clothing.
But can we really afford not to?
We each have a voice, and by the choices we make each day, we are shaping the world we live in. Each one of us is personally responsible for the choices we make.
So, even if you aren’t taking part in Fashion Revolution, I encourage you take responsibility for the choices you make each day regarding the clothes you wear, be a conscious shopper and help to create a world of safe, ethical and responsible fashion.