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?
I finally got my sunny pictures in the bright yellow canola field! And, I had the perfect outfit to wear with the field. (There I go again- matching my outfits to the farmer’s field!) Well, that is not the whole story. The real story is, I thought to myself, “What could I wear for pictures in the sunny yellow canola field?” A cursory examination of my current wardrobe revealed that I had nothing that would coordinate or contrast with a bright yellow and blue background, that I haven’t already worn a billion times, or catalogued on the blog here before. (And I really wanted to do the field justice!)
So, what to do? Why sew something new, of course! I had an old, 1980’s, baggy, rayon, navy gingham dress in my stash, that I had purchased from the thrift store with the sole purpose of refashioning into something new, and I decided that now was the time. It had been sitting there for a couple of years, waiting for the right project- and this was it! (I will detail that project’s process later.)
So, I had a pinafore, a white blouse to match, and then of course some white sunglasses as it was bright out there, (and I am nothing if not colour coordinated) and a straw sunhat to finish off the look. It was the perfect 1940’s Hollywood interpretation of a farm girl or a milk maid. (Which means that it is nothing like what a real farm girl or milk maid would actually wear, but there is nothing better than a fake Hollywood interpretation of reality, right?) So, that leads me to the title of this post- Dorothy, of The Wizard of Oz. I was almost done making this pinafore when I realized that my outfit looked very fairytale like, although I couldn’t place my finger quite on which character. At first I thought of Alice in Wonderland, but then I remembered that Alice has a solid blue dress with a white pinafore. So then I was trying to remember whose dress mine looked like- and then I realized that it is strikingly similar to Judy Garland’s outfit in that movie- and it was completely by accident! 🙂 I don’t have a yellow brick road, but I do have a road surrounded in yellow- so does that count?
Do you have any dresses similar to movie costumes, either on purpose, or by accident?
So, the month of May is over and with that comes the end of the Me Made May challenge! It was a neat experience participating in this online event for the first time, and it was fun to see how many people were taking part over on Instagram. (The majority of the photos are gathered under #mmmay16, if you want to go and see)
Now that the month is over (and I am a week late in writing this) (and really where did May go so fast!!??) it is time to think about what I learned from the challenge. I wrote about my reason for joining in in this post here, and over at Zoe’s blog you can read about the whole thing. The main idea is to evaluate your wardrobe, and show the garments you’ve made a bit of love and appreciation. My challenge to wear each of my homemade garments was a good challenge for me, because I have some homemade garments I literally never reach for, so it was good to wear them and evaluate, “Why don’t I wear this? Why is this not the first thing I reach for when getting dressed?”. Here are my thoughts, and lessons learned, as well as what I need to focus on now in my sewing projects. . .
I grabbed a dress first almost every day. For me, dresses are my go to: they are so easy. I don’t have to worry about coordinating my separates, or the fact that my blouse is coming untucked, or try too hard to get an ensemble that looks “put together”. I just throw on a dress, grab some shoes, maybe a hat and a purse and I’m done! I wore my handmade dresses, such as the seersucker dress, and black rayon dirndl dress, over and over throughout the month (I just didn’t take a picture each time haha!) So, I definitely need to add more dresses into the list of projects. And as far as what kind: full skirted dresses are my first love!
I work from home, so I don’t get dressed to the nines each morning, with fancy dresses, petticoats, hats, gloves, and high heels. When I am at my desk, comfort is key. BUT, I still want to look classy and put together! I found that my pleated skirts are two of the other garments I reached for over and over again. I often paired them with a solid t-shirt, or peasant blouse. Are t-shirts vintage? Nope, not really, but on a casual stay-at-home day, or a really hot day where I think I might just melt into a puddle, t-shirts are great. If I pair them with a vintage style skirt though, rather than jeans for example, I still get the “look”, but I stay comfortable. Those two skirts I made were sooooo easy to make. I really need to whip up a couple more.
I have a wardrobe that is full of patterns. I love patterns, but unfortunately, most of the patterns are different florals that don’t coordinate with each other. I need to focus on bringing some more solids into my wardrobe, so the patterns can shine and not compete with each other. On that note, the two hats I made, only coordinate with a select few garments I have in my closet. So, either I need to focus on making hats that will go well with lots of my garments, or make more garments that will coordinate with my hats. I hate it when you don’t have a hat that “goes” with an outfit, and yet you know that the outfit would look so much better if it did have a coordinating hat!
And lastly, what did I not reach for?
Like I said, fancy party dresses are not something I wear on a consistent basis. (Maybe I just need to go to more parties. . . .) I definitely wear them on occasion, and I do like to dress up a bit fancier for church, but even then, I would be more likely to wear a rayon or brushed cotton, than a taffeta or silk. I never once wore my beautiful floral “garden party” dress during the month of May, but I do have an event coming up in June that I am planning on wearing it to. I still definitely want to keep these few fancier options in my closet, for those few times a year when I need a cocktail dress, however, perhaps my sewing hours would be better suited to sewing some more “everyday” garments, before I start focusing on the fancy dresses.
I never once reached for my pants. I only wore them on the last day, so that I could say that I had done it! 😉 I just find dresses and skirts so much more comfortable. (which is funny considering that most people consider pants to be more comfortable. . . ) Obviously I need pants for occasions like: digging up the garden, walking through tall grass and weeds where you don’t want your legs to get all scratched up to shreds, or going tobogganing (for example), but for daily use, I just don’t wear them. However, when I did wear them, I liked them well enough, so maybe I just need to take note to remember to wear them more often. I recently purchased Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing Trousers, as I have heard good things about that pattern, so perhaps I should sew those up sooner rather than later.
Overall it was great to participate in the challenge, and I certainly did pay more attention to what I have, what I wore, and what I should make to fill in those “holes”, so I would consider the challenge a success! Have you ever taken part in the Me Made May challenge? Or have you ever stopped to do a thorough evaluation of your wardrobe?
Millinery is the ancient and detailed profession of designing, making and trimming hats. Despite the fact that hats have largely fallen out of fashion, millinery is still alive and well. It is an art form that requires a high level of skill, and the knowledge and use of materials and techniques such as steaming felt, straw and buckram. There are tutorials and classes out there that teach the proper methods to forming hats.
This is not that kind of tutorial.
This is the quick and easy, but perhaps not “proper” way to make a hat. Someday I would like to be able to improve my proficiency in hatmaking, but in the meantime, using the resources available to me, and the limited knowledge I do have, I was still able to come up with a way to achieve the effect I was looking for. So if you’d like to know how I made the coral hat I wore in this post, keep reading!
(Little hat, you are so cute, but such a failure)
I made this little flowered hat a few years ago. However, it was a first attempt and it wasn’t very good. When I took a good look at it, I decided that (like the coral hat) it was just too small and never worked with my hair styles. Me Made May was a perfect time to try and fix it so I could wear it! My first thought was to add flowers to the sides, like I did to the coral hat, however that didn’t work out as there was the netting to deal with, and I couldn’t just widen it like I did with the coral one. However I liked the idea of an explosion of flowers atop my head, so the only way was to take it apart and start over.
(The brand is Api’s Crafters Pick Fabric Stiffener)
The base of this hat was made with an old curtain. The weave of this lace reminded me of the hats from the 50’s. For the coral hat I used an old piece of goat hair interfacing I had. You could use any piece of stiff material, as it will be starched into shape. First, cut the fabric into the size needed (and make sure not to cut it too small like I did!) if you have a hat similar to this already, you could just measure it and cut the fabric to the same size.
Now, saturate the fabric with fabric starch. I used this brand that I picked up at Michael’s craft store. It kind of looks like white glue, but it dries stiff and clear. The easiest method I found was to put the lace into a small bowl and just pour some of the starch over it and work it in with my hands. It’s messy, but don’t worry: it washes off easily! You could also use a brush if you wanted.
Once the fabric is completely saturated, you are ready to form it. You can use a hat form if you happen to have one lying around, but as I mentioned this is the unconventional way to make a hat, and I do not have a hat form. But, never fear, lot’s of things can be used instead! I have heard that bowls make great forms, and I would like to try that for the next hat I make, however for this hat, as I wanted a “cap” style, I used a foam head.
(Dear foam head: you are creepy, but you work!)
Wrap your form in a layer of plastic wrap, if it is porous, so the starch won’t wreck it. Then place the lace over the form and wrap it in another layer of plastic wrap to secure it in shape. Let it dry overnight, and then carefully remove the outer layer of plastic. The cloth will probably still be wet as the plastic doesn’t let in enough air to dry completely, but it will most likely be dry enough to hold shape. Once you have removed the plastic outer layer, let the fabric dry completely, until it is hard and in shape. You are now ready to make a hat!
(The wire grid on the inside of the coral hat; the wire won’t show so I didn’t cover it)
Measure the circumference of the edge of the fabric and cut a length of wire, adding an inch to overlap and secure together. For this lace hat, I only wired the edge, but for the coral hat, where the wires would be covered, I made a framework of wires. A great place to get wire is in the hardware section rather than in the craft section, as the supplies are usually cheaper there. I use a roll of wire I got from the dollar store (I don’t remember what gauge it is). Note that this is not memory wire, as it doesn’t spring back into shape, but can be bent out of and into shape. I used two pieces for added strength, and taped them together by wrapping them with washi paper tape. You could also use masking tape or florists tape- I’ve used them before- I just used washi as that is what I had handy.
(Taping the wire together first, and then wrapping with ribbon)
Now you are left with a nice solid ring, or gridwork, but an ugly one, so it is time to cover it if you are making a mesh hat where the wire might show. If the hat is solid fabric, you don’t need to cover the wire, as it won’t show. Covering the wire can be done in two ways: either sew a narrow channel and slide the wire into it, or wrap it with a ribbon. To wrap with ribbon, secure the end with some hot glue and then wrap, adding a dot of glue every once in a while to keep it nice and tight.
Now bend the wire into the shape that you need it to be. I simply placed it on my head and pressed it into shape.
Now it is time to secure the wire to the base! Using a needle and thread, sew the base onto the wire around the circumference. Make sure to keep it even the entire way around. Then trim off any excess material. If some of the starch has dried across the lace (see picture below) then just poke through it with a pin to remove it.
Now you are left with the perfect base to embellish!
Play around with options before you commit, by pinning flowers, bows, ribbons (anything is game!) onto the hat before sewing them. I pinned the flowers I took off the old hat onto the new base. I also decided to try a veil to see how that would look. I pinned it all together as a mock up and tried it on!
Unfortunately, it looked like the entire 1980’s had exploded into a hat. This was not quite the look I was going for. 🙁 So, perhaps this tutorial should actually be entitled, “How to Start Fixing One Hat and End Up With A Completely Different One”!
I decided that I did like the pink peony though, so I started thinking about how I could incorporate that into my design. Then I had an idea: edge the hat in ribbon leaves!
Here’s how to make ribbon leaves. They are very easy and quick to make. (I made them all in the time it took me to watch a movie. Actually, I trimmed the entire hat in that time, so you can see it is actually very quick to whip up a hat). Cut a length of ribbon long enough to fold both sides in at a 45 degree angle. Press into shape. Sew a running stitch along the bottom of the triangle and then gather. Trim off any excess, but make sure not to cut the gathering stitch.
I also decided to make a new centre for the peony so that it would coordinate with the ribbon leaves. Once you have figured out your design, sew the pieces onto the base. You can also use hot glue (but make sure to test first to make sure that the glue won’t soak through and show to the proper side, or you’ll end up with a spotty look). As you are sewing, make sure to catch only the under layers, or make very tiny stitches, so they won’t show to the front.
When I made the coral hat, I covered the goat hair lining with a piece of satin, but stitching it around the edge of the base (in case any showed through) and then I just sewed a thousand peach coloured silk flowers to the top of it. This took a while, but I used long stitches, making sure to only catch tiny bits of the flower, (like the ribbon leaves above) so you wouldn’t see the stitches.
(I also added a little pouf of veiling, just for some fluffiness)
I decided to add a veil to the lace hat, so I gathered a piece of Russian netting to create a short veil. I got the netting at Fabricland, but if you don’t have access to this kind of netting, and you want to add a veil, you can use any kind of netting or tulle. I made the veil narrow, as I didn’t want it to come over my face, but rather just over my forehead. If you need to cut the netting to size, make sure to cut through the middle of the squares. This way you will have a nice edge and the netting won’t fray. (If you are using regular tulle, also try to cut along the edges of the pieces where the threads join, otherwise you end up with thread “legs” sticking out, rather than a neat edge) If you gather the veil in a semi circle shape, it will pull into a rounded shape and the edges will meet up with the sides of the hat. To gather, put your needle through the little squares in the Russian netting and gently gather into shape. Trim off any excess netting, but make sure not to cut your gathering stitch. Then, stitch the veil onto the hat, but make sure not to stitch through the good side of your hat.
(cut through the squares, and gather by stitching into the squares)
(I used only 1/2 the width, but you could use the entire width for a veil that would cover your face)
Now you have a hat, but how will you secure it to your head? I used a length of elastic, as I have found this works best with my short hair, but you could also use a comb, attach the hat to a headband or add loops and secure with hatpins or bobby pins. I use a black elastic, as it blends better with my hair than white would.
(the messy inside of the hat- but it works!)
Now you have another hat to add to your collection!
Oh and a couple of notes:
-The fabric stiffener is water soluble, so do not wear your hat in the rain!
-I have not been able to come up with a good way to line the hat, as of yet, so for now the coral hat is not nice and neat on the inside. I’m OK with that, as when I am wearing it, nobody can see the messy inside, but if I figure out a way to line it, I will someday. Do you know of a good way to line it?
So there you go, the unconventional way to make a hat! Would you try making a hat, or have you ever made a hat before? How did it go? What kind of hats do you like the most?
Also, stay tuned for a post later this week, where the hat will make it’s debut! (Or rather, I guess since I have already shown you the hat, it will not be a debut, but . . . )