Friday, 15 April 2011

Refashioning - where do you start?

Law commented on my Portobello dress post that she never knows how to imagine what she could make out of existing things, and this echoes a number of comments from some of my friends, who were regarding refashioning as magic or creative genius (which it clearly isn’t, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do it!)
Now I am no expert at refashioning. I haven’t done that much and I don’t tend to do anything very extreme. Neither am I particularly skilled (or at all frankly!) or knowledgeable about any aspect of sewing. So, health warning over, I can actually get round to my discussion point. How do you know how to refashion/restyle things? 

Now I’m sure everyone does this differently, and that’s part of the fun, but I guess this is my attempt to vaguely explain how I tend to do it. When buying something to refashion, you have to be drawn to some aspect of the item. In my case it’s usually the fabric colour or pattern. As my mum said the other day, she keeps walking round shops this season and seeing lovely fabrics and colours, and then picking them up and realising they have made something revolting out of it. That is pretty much the essence of my approach to refashioning - if I feel that the fabric deserved better, I will try and make that happen.  Alternatively there are things that are representative of clothes I’ve been meaning to get/make and which can be changed to fit that brief (for example I wanted a silky shirt, so I went out and bought one I could adapt)

The best way to start thinking about refashioning is to repeatedly try to imagine what you could do with random items, until you get into the right mindset (I think I learnt to do this making Halloween costumes out of random things!). Walk around a charity shop, pick up an item in a largish size from the rack because you like something about it, its colour, fabric, pattern, texture, buttons, whatever. Now try and imagine what you could do with it. Have a go with a few items, and see what sort of things you come up with. You don’t have to buy anything, I frequently look in 10 shops and don’t get anything, or I can walk into one and buy half the shop. It just depends.

Things to think about 

Do you like the sort of garment it is? Would it be better as a different category-eg if is a dress you can make it a skirt, or a top, or shorts, or a shawl, trousers can be made into shorts or a skirt, shirts can be made into skirts or have bits added on the bottom to make them dresses. Skirts can be hitched up to make dresses..

The lovely and talented Verity turns a dressing gown into a dress

Would it be nice if it fit you? Can you make it fit you-what parts of the proportions are wrong- does it need darts, a lower waist, a less poufy skirt? Is it too long (cut off the bottom) or short (add on a contrast panel, drop the waist..), or needs several inches off the side seams? Is it too tight across the shoulders but would be fine if you gave it a V neck?

I tweak my dress to fit and be more flattering

Would it be nice if it had different details or style? different sleeves, a different neckline, waist detail, straps, 3 foot cut off the bottom so it looks more fashionable?(always a staple of refashioning!) Could you dye it? or add different fabrics/notions in to create interest or new bits of garment?

Portia transforms this shapeless two piece into a lovely dress 

Does it have any existing work already done? Gathering, smocking, buttonholes, piping, hemming? Can you imagine the item as something else which has these details?

The refashioning queen transforms this hideous creation into a fabulous little dress at New dress a day

Is there enough fabric to ignore what it currently is entirely and use it as straightforward fabric?

Jennifer cut this amazing mini jacket out of a thrifted sheet (see her blog for the tutorial-I am totally going to make one myself )

Main questions before you buy
Is there enough material? It’s much harder to make things bigger than smaller.
Are there any stains/holes/tears than need to be avoided?
Is it actually good value?-frequently things aren’t cheap just because they are second hand; you usually aren’t getting a lot of material for your money.
Are you cutting up something nice to make something meh? I tend to avoid things that are really nice as they are, as someone else will appreciate them. If I want a piece of silk and voile, it may be cheaper to buy an evening dress in the charity shop but I’d rather someone got to wear and love the evening dress.

It really helps to look at what other people have done.
Have a look at  the refashion co-op, which used to be housed at wardrobe refashioned, or the fantastic 
new dress a day (she refashioned really odd things into nice clothes every day for a year on only $365). There are hundreds of other keen refashioners out there, with lots of different approaches.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Portobello dress

Last week I had to go to Portobello, a little seaside town on the edge of Edinburgh, to get my car MOTd. As it was a lovely day and it was going to take a while I wandered up and down the beach, read some of my oceanography book in the local library, ate a delicious but rather over priced burger and hit the many charity shops! Overall, as with all charity shops, you could tell the proportions of the local population- down in Portobello there are clearly a lot of old ladies who like to wear slightly shapeless things. In one shop however I spotted a shapeless garment in a lovely blue and purple flowered fabric-perfect for my Spring Palette, and my love of bright flowery patterns. I snapped it up for £3, a bargain! (more so than the MOT- turns out I needed a whole new set of tyres. Ouch!)

When I got it home however the scale of the task became more apparent. The dress, as well as being utterly shapeless, was also too small across the bodice. You can see the gape in the picture but what isn’t so obvious is the way it pulled me in about 2 inches around every button from the side. Super flattering. The waist is also far too high and big on me, the armholes were too tight, the neckline doesn’t work and the whole thing is clearly far too long (that glamorous “midi” length that is very fashionable right now. apparently –in any case it is definitely not for me!). To clarify the horribleness of the item, when my flatmate Lindsey saw me in it, she burst out laughing and now still laughs whenever the dress is mentioned. So clearly some work needed to be done!

I decided that in order to keep it as a dress, I would have to put in a waist section to drop the gathered skirt down to an appropriate level. I would also need to cut a lot of the bottom, so there was conveniently some fabric available for that!  I therefore divided the dress into three sections.

The bodice was the first thing to tackle. As it was it clearly wouldn’t do up, and the neckline needed to be changed. I decided, mainly through opening it up until I could breathe, to create a mock open shirtwaist top, by having most of the buttons open, the neckline cut down accordingly and put in an insert panel in a contrasting colour. This proved slightly fiddly, mainly as every time I cut off a bit I didn’t need so that I could see what I was doing, I immediately realised that I did need it. sigh. I also realised half way through that I could only sew in the insert panel on one side otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get it on and off. After a little thought I decided to use the buttons, sewing them onto the purple inset and then having buttonholes on the outer layer. This just about creates the impression that they are just attached to the outside layer like the rest of the buttons. (I’m not at all sure I explained that very well..)

To offset this trying experience however I had some pure joy-namely my new bias tape maker. I asked for one of for Christmas from my mummy after seeing the how to on the Colette Patterns blog. Instead of the regular sew hundreds of strips together approach I made the tape strip using the continuous tape method again from Colette Patterns, which worked like a dream, much less hassle than the other way (which I also tried as I didn’t make quite enough the first time!). After that you just poke the strip through the little folder tool and it pull it along, ironing as you go-frankly I was sceptical, thinking it would be fiddly and awkward, but it was AMAZING! I now love making bias tape. I used it to trim the slightly larger armholes I cut. Super easy, worked like a breeze, looks really good.

Then I had to make the waistband section. I had already measured how wide I wanted it to be. I think that flat waistband sections sometimes look a little bodgy, so I decided to make a pleated one, inspired by the beautiful wedding dress sewcountrychick had made using this tutorial. Basically, you just fold the material up, and then iron fusible interfacing on the back. For extra stability I also sewed up across the pleats in various places. It worked wonderfully, and looked really nice.

All I had to do then was sew the three bits together, and put on some buttons on the waistband section. Luckily, what with the one I cut off in the middle and the ones I cut off the adjusted neckline, I had exactly the right amount to do the waistband and insert buttons. Result!

I am fairly pleased with the final result, it’s certainly much better. As usual I am not entirely convinced by myself in gathered skirts, it just emphasises the sudden jut out of my hips, and the inset panel pulls slightly more than it did when I assembled it. But never mind. It‘s a nice dress for summer and very pretty fabric. Plus it gave me lots of button and buttonhole practice. And was only £3!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Finally Agnetha has arrived! Paper-tape dressform phase 2.

Now you may have noticed that about two months ago I started making a body double dress form to my own measurements. I got my flatmate Charlotte to cover me in brown paper tape, and then we cut it off and I had a model slightly bigger than myself. the whole thing was quite creepy and there are plenty of embarrassing pictures of the whole process in the original post here. Many people stick with that dressform, but it has a few problems, it's slightly bigger than you, as it goes around you, and you can't pin into it. Plus it doesn't exactly look very nice, either generally or in terms of highlighting your every flaw! So I decided to use the method described on Burdastyle to make another model using the first one as a mould.

I started this a while ago but got a bit distracted and the pieces have been sitting in my room half finished for ages, but as I was off ill today I thought I would try and finish it.

So I started with the first model, and cut it into two pieces down the sides. Here is one of them.

I lined each one with clingfilm, so as to not damage the mould with later wet layers. I then cut pieces of thin wadding and lined the curves of the moulds, this will be the outer pinnable layer, so you have to get it as close to the shape as you can. I sewed it down to the outer mould using big stitches so that it stayed in place.

Then I did another few layers of brown paper tape within the wadding. I found it easiest to go vertically up the body with the strips, so that you can get the curves. It sticks to the wadding as long as you get the first layer of tape quite wet, but not too strongly, do not worry about this you can stick it all down properly at the end. Once I had done a few layers of tape, and the shape is sorted, I made it stronger using some paper mache. The edges were the weakest bit so I put extra layers on there. As the original mould hadn't gone all the way to my shoulders or neck, I extended the inner cast at these points. the two pieces were not that rigid when cut in half so I propped books under them in places to stop them slumping under the weight of the tape.

Once it had all dried, I cut the extra edges off to match the mould, and cut off the stitches holding the two layers together from the outside.

This had all taken about 3 hours in work time, but and well over a month in actual time! (I really need to get better at keeping going with things!) I was pretty excited earlier today when I got to this stage and got to tip out the new pieces! I was slightly worried that it wouldn't have worked. But it came out beautifully!

The next step was to reassemble the pieces. I noted on each where the waist lines were from the old pieces, and lined them up on the two pieces. They had warped a bit when I was making them, so I had to squish them a bit so they lined up again. I then masking taped them together until it fit all round.

I then brown paper taped over the edges to make them strong. At this point the fact that the wadding doesn't stick that well is useful as you can pull it back to get the tape on smoothly.

I rolled up newspaper into balls and used them to make the neck and shoulders. I didn't try and replicate the size of my arms, but just get the shoulder width right. I taped them on and covered them with brown tape.

I took my measurements and checked that the model was the same, which it was, except at the bust. I had clearly got a little squashed during the taping process. At this point the base was done, but the wadding was falling off and had lots of gaps. I cut pieces to fill in the gaps, and stuck them and the rest of the wadding on with spray glue. I cut extra pieces to puff up the bust area to match my measurements.

I then had to cover it. I couldn't find any instructions online, other than to cover it with a long sleeved jersey top. I didn't want to do that, so I used some light blue jersey fabric and made it up as a I went along! I pinned it to the front first, sticking the pins through the weaker side joins. I toyed momentarily with putting darts in when the stretch wasn't enough, but quickly decided that wold be to difficult and I would just fold it.

I then put on the back piece, folding it over at the joins and sewing it along the edges. I started at the top as that was the fiddliest bit and would give me a sound base for the rest.

I then pinned the side seams, and sewed them too. The stitching could be much neater, but it was rather fiddly getting it tight enough, plus I'm terrible at hand sewing!

As I am planning on finding/making /bodging some kind of stand for it, I left the bottom open and pinned the excess fabric up inside. Luckily however it stands up fine as it is.

But it looks awesome! As I did it all listening to ABBA (I watched Mamma Mia again and got a bit obsessed!) I have decided to call it Agnetha. She is lovely, and not nearly as depressing to look at as the brown paper one! (LATER EDIT- after staring at her for several hours I am now not so sure about the non depressing point! I think its just odd to see your figure so still...) She looks rather lumpy around the bust, due to the additional stuffing, but will be excellent to fit things on. And she is a pretty colour, and matches my spring palette!

It's very weird looking at her. She is definitely rather pneumatic looking! But I am very pleased! Here is me hugging her. Most people cannot say they have properly hugged themselves!

UPDATE I eventually put her on a stand and she looks great! (See more here).

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

More pretty clothes! Pepperberry

I was just sent an email for the new Pepperberry clothing range. This is the new shop that is a spin off from Bravissimo, which sells bras and stuff for ladies with more on top. They have always done a clothing range too which has more room in the bust area than normal RTW, and now this has been extended into the new shop. The basic logic is that you buy your proper RTW size based on everything apart from the boobs (so like making something by your upper bust measurement rather than full bust so it fits your frame) and then you select either curvy, really curvy or super curvy based on how much difference your boobs make. There is one in Edinburgh, though I haven't yet had chance to go, but I am excited by the on-line store! Sadly as lot of the clothes in Bravissimo still don't fit me as my hips and waist are just not proportional, but anything with a flared skirt is good!

Whether or not I will buy anything remains to be seen but I may make some stuff that is similar!

Ok, I want this skirt, or at least something very similar, I think I might incorporate some stripes onto my shifting skies skirt (should I ever finish it!)

They describe this as a prom dress, which to me, possibly due to being used to looking at vintage patterns, seems to not be what I would call it, even if it does have an underskirt. It is however very pretty and simple and definitely something I could make from the loads of florals that seems to have ended up in my stash!

Two quite similar dresses here. I love dresses that look like separates, and the contrast on the blue dress is amazing. The brown one is a similar look to what I am aiming for with my Oolong (again, should I get round to making it-I am doing terribly on my spring palette!).

And no dress collection would be complete without a fabulous shift dress in a bright colour! (not in my book anyway). Sadly this, despite the hardest to make, will definitely not fit me from the shop. Stupid hip/waist ratio!

(I should note that I am not in any way affiliated with Pepperberry or Bravissimo, I am just excited to shop there!)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Dresses that make you dream of sipping beer looking at the sunset

As the days have got longer and sunshine is starting to be visible when I walk home from work, I have started to crave the summer. In particular, sitting on the meadows (a big grassy park in the centre of Edinburgh), drinking beer and generally relaxing into the evening. Accordingly, every time I see a pretty dress, particularly if it is flowery (I love prints!) I immediately want to buy/make it, force the temperature to rise about 10 degrees, get my sunglasses and run off to enjoy the sunset.

Sadly it is still too cold, but I am enjoying browsing for pretty things none the less! I just spent a while oohing over the new anthropologie collection.

such a pretty colour, I can't pull off long myself, but it looks so cool and elegant

love the dip dye bottom to the skirt

lovely sleeve details and collar

so bright and summery-I think I had a similar dress when I was little in the 80s!

Of course thanks to what I like being for once the height of fashion! (wonders will never cease) there are plenty of other pretty things from around the web..

beautiful bright print stretch dress (Cathy Pill at laredoute)

lovely soft colours, I like how the skirt looks like its made out of lots of different length layers. (Paradise Pond dress at modcloth)

Not flowery, but still simple and fun! (Belle et the Fete dress at modcloth)

I love this, its so jolly. I have a skirt refashion I might make into something similar. (Bursting into Bloom dress at modcloth)

I like the chevron skirt pattern, and the bodice detail, nice way to look strapless and summery without continually hitching yourself up! (Craft Sale Saturday dress at modcloth)

And just in case you dont fancy a dress, some lovely silky trousers. (topshop)