Refashion Runway, Here I Come!

Refashioning or upcycling textiles into new designs has been really fun and satisfying, so I resolved to push myself more in 2020. Here’s a gallery of projects from the past couple of years:

I didn’t have to wait long. I was chosen to compete on “Refashion Runway” – a friendly sewing competition sponsored by Beth Huntington, aka “The Renegade Seamstress.”

Yikes! There are 15 contestants who have put up some fabulous looks using textiles that had a previous life. Here’s a rundown of the competitors with some of their choice refashioned looks. I am so impressed with how these sewers combine textiles and shapes to create something super cool.

While I am no slouch in the sewing department, my refashioned looks have been a bit, shall I say, basic? I have upcycled and refashioned mostly large flat pieces of fabric, such as a sari, a blanket and not one, but two tablecloths. My most ambitious project was creating a nightgown out of an old bathrobe, and while I like how this project turned out, it’s not exactly a garment I wear on the street. In public. Or even in a photo on this blog.

So, I gotta step it up.

The first project, which starts January 18th, is “Statement Sleeves.” We were given the basic challenge parameters in advance, so we could start planning. There are few guidelines for each challenge; we’re meant to interpret it for ourselves. I assume this challenge means we need to create a big, showy sleeve in an refashioned garment. Statement sleeves broke through as a trend a few years ago as a kind of antidote to the sleeveless look of the early 2010s. It’s still going strong, to judge from all the ruffles, puffs, pleats, cutouts and other sleeve designs you see out there.

I really like a dramatic cuff on a sleeve, so that’s my jumping-off point.

RuPaul

In my closet, several misfit discarded garments wait for their chance to shine. That’s your cue, awkward linen dress!

IMG_20200112_124235 (2)
Awkward linen dress from a friend … can you carry the water?

My friend Emmeline gave me this dress last summer. She wore it once but found it … just … not … her cup o’tea. But the fabric was nice, so she gave it to me with encouragement to refashion it.

The first thing I did was to wash and machine dry it with other laundry three times to soften the linen-cotton blend up and to let any shrinking get nice and shrunken. Trying it on, you no doubt notice a few pros and cons:

Pros:

  • I like a high-contrast print, which this for sure provides in navy and white.
  • It’s big and long enough to give me some fabric to work with.
  • There are no darts or zippers and few seams to complicate a refashion project.
  • The hem and sleeve hems are split, offering some design change opportunities.

Cons:

  • I am not crazy about the “junior high school art teacher” swishy brushstroke motif.
  • It has no lining, and the “wrong side” of the fabric looks pretty bad, as the navy bleeds through.
  • The neckline is awkwardly proportioned and has a crummy facing.
  • The fabric remains a bit stiff and ungainly despite three journeys in the washing machine and dryer.

Clearly, this is not going to work as a dress, no matter how it’s refashioned.

My big idea is to turn it into a duster-style jacket. I think I will cut it right up the middle, self-face the raw edges, recut the neckline and add some darts for shaping, front and back. Maybe a contrasting lining? It will need some help as the wrong side will be on display even more as a jacket.

But what about the sleeves? That’s the whole point of the challenge. I am thinking a cuff – in the same contrast as the lining – with some accent hardware or other bling to edge this look up a bit.

I had nothing suitable in my closet of misfit garments, so it was off to Goodwill to see what they had.

Score!

IMG_20200111_143906
Goodwill raincoat for $9.89 – 10% off

This red rain jacket has a lot to work with as it’s fully lined. The zipper was broken, which is probably why someone donated it. And it has a cute drawstring in the hood, which can be repurposed easily.

Red is my favorite color! And the contrast with navy and white will look chic (I hope).

IMG_20200111_143747
Raincoat – ready for some refashion fun!

I have a good week to play around with my ideas before the contest starts. Wish me luck!

Me Made May Week 3

Hi everyone – here are some quick Me Made May looks from week 3. So far, I have worn at least one Me-Made garment each day, sometimes head-to-toe looks. I am delighted that I have come this far, and I am confident I can finish out the month.

First, the rest of the looks from last week’s vacation, where the temperatures soared into the low 90s after starting the week in the 50s:

IMG_20190516_091823
Blouse from La Mia Boutique July/Aug 2018 and Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt
IMG_20190516_155601
Lounging my the pool in the Tunic with Roll-up Sleeves from “Happy Homemade Sew Chic”
IMG_20190517_113651
Headed to a botanical garden in my poppy print top from Simplicity 1202 and Yasmin skirt
IMG_20190517_195907
The denim Yasmin skirt again, worn with an upcycled tablecloth top from Happy Homemade Sew Chic’s Tunic with Lace
Brown Hotel
Dinner with my hubby in my Jalie drop-pocket cardigan and RTW dress

I went to the office yesterday and decided to dress up since I needed to get my head back in the game:

IMG_20190520_081031
Sewaholic Cordova jacket, Style Arc Creative Cate top and RTW pants in my office’s fancy elevator.

And then a couple of work-at-home days with suitably casual looks:

IMG_20190521_075001
The tunic top again, this time with the Seamwork Moji pants
IMG_20190519_152432
Planting spring flowers in a top from New Look 6330.

I notice that a few of my me-made items are nearing their expiration dates. This New Look top, for example, didn’t come out right and hasn’t worn well. The neckline is ripply and the hem is wonky. I wear it for things like exercising and working outdoors. Also, let’s face it, my upcycled tablecloth-turned-top is pretty funky (as was intended) but not a great look for me.

Likewise, that Cordova jacket is on its last legs. The zipper area is all rippled – I am not sure why but I suspect that the interfacing shrank when I had the jacket cleaned. It was always a little big, but it seems to be getting bigger as the years go by. I really need to make a new jacket for work.

 

A Winning Upcycle Project

I won second place in the PatternReview.com 2018 Upcycle Contest for my Hudson’s Bay knock-off coat! Woot!

I am pretty amazed. This was not the most creative upcycle, but it was pretty striking graphically, I guess. Or maybe my funny story about it charmed everyone.

Here’s another funny thing. When I mentioned to my mom that I entered this contest, she said she remembered the blanket from my college days. A few days later, this picture arrived in the mail.

EPSON MFP image

 

Yep there I am, and there the blanket is, looking very 1990 or so.

Remember how cameras back then gave you red eyes? Lovely!

I can’t believe how bad those bangs look. I must have cut them myself.

Also, I am wearing a black Swatch, an oversized sweatshirt and faded mom jeans. Sexy!

I cropped pictures of the other dorm-mates out, since I can’t remember their names. So sad! It was only 30 years ago…

Soooo…. old…..

But I have a cute coat!

 

Upcycling Cozy

Is there anything you love more than your cozy old bathrobe?

How about a nightgown upcycled from the robe, after one too many stains from makeup and hair dye? Behold:

A nightgown from McCall’s 7297!

As before, I cut a size 14, which fits well (note the top has very little ease in it) and graded to a 16 at the hips. The only changes to the pattern were that I lengthened it 17 inches, changed the sleeves and didn’t make a shirttail hem. This nightgown is pretty ridiculously short otherwise and would barely cover my rear.

Here’s how I worked with the old bathrobe:

I cut it apart at the seams. No way was I unpicking all that!  The only things I unpicked were  the robe’s two pockets, and I reused one as a breast pocket on the gown. (The other was stained so I tossed it.)

I laid out the pattern pieces carefully. The front of the nightgown is asymmetrical and can’t be cut on the fold, so I used the broad back of the robe for the front of the gown. I pieced the back of the gown using two pieces taken from the two fronts of the robe.


I cut the front and back as long as I could – basically, I tried to get as much use out of the old robe as possible, avoiding stains and holes. After the pattern piece ended, I used my hip curve to continue the line to the hem. Once I sewed the back and fronts together, I trimmed and hemmed it even. The final length is 17 inches longer than the pattern calls for.

I cut off the striped facings and used one for the neckline binding. I simply cut the facing open and made a binding out of it with a bit of wonder tape to fold in the raw edges (this fabric doesn’t take a press).

IMG_20180401_194740

I cut open the striped belt, removed the interfacing, and did the same treatment to the raw edges to bind the hem. This didn’t work out very well. Despite my best efforts, the hem and binding both stretched a bit and went wonky in places. It was also about 4 inches short – GAH! I pieced together the rest from what was left of the facing. I don’t think this shows (too much).

IMG_20180402_133105
I cut off the sleeves. The size was right, but I recut the sleeve cap to avoid a stain, and so that the sleeves would ease into the armscye well. Then I cuffed them so that the striped facing showed. (Somehow, I had this robe for years and never noticed the striped facing on the sleeves!)

IMG_20180403_073026

I estimate I reused 90% of the old bathrobe. All that’s left is a small pile of scraps.

IMG_20180403_181406

It’s not the most gorgeous nightgown I’ve ever had, but it’s comfy, and I am wearing it to bed tonight!

Upcycle from the Outside In

I’m committed to upcycling, since I had great success with my tablecloth-turned-dress last year. So when my old bathrobe got a bit too ratty to use anymore, I held on to it in hopes of giving it a second life.

IMG_20170615_172539
Upcycled from my old bathrobe

The fabric is in good shape – minus a few holes at the shoulder from close encounters with a hairbrush, and a coffee stain on one pocket that defies detergent.

There’s enough fabric here to make a nightgown, so I reached again for McCall’s 7297. The  nightgown is basically a longer version of the pajama top I made last fall:

IMG_20171128_181210 (2)

The PJ top has been great, but with warmer weather coming, I would like something cooler. (The pants are ginormous and have stretched out with use, but that’s another story.)

I lined up the bathrobe with the pattern pieces and sew I could squeeze out the nightgown and even lengthen it a bit.  I will need to remove ease in the sleeves, but they’re basically OK. I have enough of the candy-striped facing and belt for the trim along the bodice, hem and sleeves.

I was hoping to reuse the pocket that did not have the baffling coffee stain, so I gently unpicked it – what a chore! There was all this gross gray lint inside. Ew.

IMG_20180308_192208

All in a day’s work for the environment, eh?

More Pussyhats for More Fresh Hell Ahead

I’m making more Pussyhats for the Women’s March in New York on January 20th. Last time, I made 22 hats out of remnants of polar fleece, about half from my stash (leftover from my niece’s Halloween costume) and half purchased off the Joann’s remnant rack.

This year, in the spirit of environmentalism, I am upcycling fabrics for the hats:

On the right you’ll see the old hooded bathrobe I retired this year after faithful service left it with too many stains, tears and pills to be quite decent anymore. Each hat takes about a fat quarter’s worth of fabric, so I estimate I can get about 12 hats out of the robe. I will definitely use the striped front band as headbands for the hats, and I may do something creative with the hood.

The pink garments on hangers are two items I bought at Goodwill for $5.25. The item on the left is a tennis dress in French terry that has a little stretch. The item on the right is a short nightgown in four-way stretch jersey. I estimate I can get 8 hats out of both, maybe using the nightie’s lace and rouleau straps creatively.

I got both items at my neighborhood Goodwill store. I have donated many times to this store but have never bought anything there. I was disappointed to find no sewing supplies or yardage on sale, just a sad-looking Singer from the 1970s.

As I perused the clothing racks in search of suitable fabrics, it occurred to me that my sewing project might pose a hardship to someone. I found a couple of pink sweatshirts, but I thought, “It’s so cold. Maybe someone needs this sweatshirt to stay warm. Is it right to buy it?” So I chose items that I imagine no one needs, at least not in January in Connecticut. Maybe this is presumptuous of me? Anyway, it’s done.

I plan to make 20 hats in all. I already have orders from a few friends and neighbors who missed out last year, and I imagine others will roll in. A bunch of us, including my sister, are going to New York on the train for the day. A friend from PatternReview.com has drafted a hat for this year’s march. If yo want to try that pattern, send me a message with your email and I will send it – it’s on a .pdf.  I am going to use it instead of the free “Fleece Fun” hat I tried last year. While it got the job done, it was rather inelegant and ill-fitting.

IMG_20170108_103113866

Are you marching too?

 

Eight Sewing Resolutions for 2018

I realized this week that I sewed about 30 items in 2017 – a record for me and a major step forward in my growth as a sewist. I almost always had a project in the works, I learned to use a serger, and I made a lot of garments that I wear regularly as well as items for gifts, charity, home dec and upcycling.

 

I also wasted time and money on a few things, so I am circumspect about what I might accomplish in 2018. I will have less time to sew in 2018. I have enrolled in a graduate program related to my job, so that will take priority, at least from January to May for the first class.

Eight resolutions for 2018, then:

  1. Participate in fewer sewalongs and contests. In 2017, I entered 8 contests on PatternReview.com, sewing 20 items in all, and sewed garments for five sewalongs with The Monthly Stitch and one with the Sewcialists. (Some of these overlap.) The PatternReview events included stash-busting and wardrobe contests, which account for much of the volume, as well as the annual PR Sewing Bee. In discussing the contests with friends on PatternReview, I am have been in the “it’s fun to participate” camp while many are in the “in it to win it” camp. I never win. I never come close (OK, I came in a distant third once). I was pissed that I didn’t make it to the third round of the Sewing Bee – that really hurt my pride. I did win one random drawing prize this year, which was nice, but I lack the skill, fit and finesse to really compete against the experts. I am going to sit out all the contests and sewalongs this year unless they happen to coincide with my established sewing plans. There’s also no Sewing Bee this year to tempt me. I volunteered instead to moderate a contest.
  2. Make jeans. I really need to do this. I need new jeans, for one thing, and I also really want the challenge. I might take a class at Workroom Social in March.
  3. Bust the embroidery unit out of its box. My husband bought me a Bernina 580 for my birthday two years ago. It came with an embroidery unit, which I didn’t really want. I am just not in to the whole embroidery thing, and I really don’t want to spend a ton of money on special threads. But I see a lot of RTW with nice embroidery details, so I figure I should at least try it. Perhaps if I make jeans, I can embroider a cute detail on the pockets?
  4. Truly Do Me Made May this year. I have participated in past years by doing “me-made” 4 or 5 days a week in May. This year I am almost ready to do it every day. I have almost enough seasonally appropriate garments, although I could use more pants  for work and definitely need jeans (see #2).
  5. Stop making so many damn mistakes. It takes me a while to sew garments because I make a ridiculous number of mistakes. “Sure,” you’re thinking, “we all have a seam that goes awry once in a while. Quit being such a perfectionist!” That is not what I am talking about. I am talking about sewing things wrong-sides together. Upside down. Accidentally pleating or tucking. Slicing off chunks of fabric with the serger. Stuff like that. I usually buy fresh seam rippers in January because they get dull with use. No more! in 2018, I will baste, double-check, triple-check and baste some more to be sure I have it right.
  6. Go on a sewing retreat. I want to have a long weekend away from the house where I can just sew and learn and maybe make some new friends. It would be ideal to attend a retreat that’s far enough from my house that I will stay overnight but close enough that I can drive or take Amtrak (East Coast, as far south as DC). It seems like a lot of retreats are for quilting. Any garment-sewing retreats out there? Let me know!
  7. Try charity shops. So many sewing bloggers come back with great finds from charity shops. I donate to these shops all the time, but I never shop at one myself. I want to try out a few this year to see what they have to offer, either for yardage and other sewing materials and patterns, or for upcycling opportunities.
  8. Sew something for my mom. She gave me the sweetest Christmas gift this year – a bunch of sewing supplies including a fabulous pair of Kai scissors, some Swedish patternmaking paper, a snap kit and a new quilting ruler. IMG_20171228_122726I asked for these things through an app we use to manage our family’s Secret Santa gift exchange. I was happy that she listened to me about what I wanted and that she read over all the info I provided in the app. “I never knew your favorite color was red!” she said. I want to make her something, both to thank her and to give us something to do together. I thought I’d try to replicate some garment that she really likes or wants. It will be challenging to sew for a different body type and size, but I am up for it.

What are your resolutions?