Restyling Exchange 2018

The Restyling Exchange is a sewing challenge run by Amy (of @amynicolestudio) and Pilar (of @pilar_bear).  It involves refashioning someone else’s garment, and another sewist will refashion an item you send them.

So what did I make? 

Kate sent me a beautiful turquoise skirt with a pink tulip print.  She mentioned she liked the skirt but didn’t get much wear out of it, because it was a touch too formal for everyday wear.  She also said her style icons included Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn so I knew I had a vintage style to aim for.

The genius of this skirt was the amount of material I had to play with.  Not only is there the main fabric, but also a lining.  I decided a shirt would be ideal, and ended up using the Vintage Shirt Dress pattern from Sew Over It which I already had in my stash. I hacked the pattern to make it into a shirt length, rather than the intended dress.  In this way, I thought it would tick both boxes – wearable everyday, but also vintage inspired!  Fortunately Kate and I were a similar size, so I was able to make it to fit me during the sewing process.

A few notes on the construction…

  • I kept the main button band from the skirt; some would say this was clever refashioning, I’d say it was me being lazy and not wanting to redo button holes..!

  • I finished the arm holes with bias binding, which worked pretty well.

  • I used the hem of the skirt for the shirt hem… again, lazy not clever if I’m honest 🙂

  • I decided very early on that pattern matching wasn’t going to happen.  Although I had a lot of material, it just wasn’t enough to match the tulips.  That being said, I tried to match the central tulip on the centre back seam as I thought that would be pretty obvious.

  • The lining was pretty useful for the front facing, where I didn’t have quite enough of the main fabric to use.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with this make and was a bit sad to see it go – I really enjoyed sewing with such beautiful, bright fabric!

And what did I receive in return? 

Excuse the background mess…

I sent (to be refashioned) a navy patterned dress that was just a tad too short (read: indecent), and a green Ogden cami that didn’t have enough drape so I just didn’t wear it (both me-mades).  I received back two items (completely didn’t expect two!).

They were a lovely refashioned top (from the dress) and a bag to store sewing projects (from the Ogden cami).  Both much more usable than the items I sent off!

Verdict.

This is such a great, environmentally friendly initiative.  Plus it’s a great challenge to sew for someone else, trying to fit to their measurements and their style.  I’ll definitely take part again next year 🙂

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Ogden Omnibus

This summer has been sweltering in London – but us Brits haven’t mentioned it all, have we..?  I suddenly found myself with very little summer appropriate clothing and turned to the trusty Ogden cami pattern to solve my dilemma.  In one weekend alone, I made 5 Ogdens. Can you believe?  Here’s a quick round-up, showing how versatile the Ogden can be:

1. Ogden/Ida Swap 

Jen (@jenlegg4) and Laura (@cottonreelstudio) ran a great sewing exchange challenge this year in the Ogden/Ida swap.  You’re paired up with another sewist somewhere in the world and you have to make them an Ogden cami or an Ida clutch or both.  I opted for both, and my person to sew for was Laura herself.  Noting her love for patterned fabric, I decided to sew up an Ogden in some navy blue fabric with white birds all over it.

Photo courtesy of @cottonreelstudio (because I stupidly forgot to take a picture before sending!)

Now one of my least favourite parts of an Ogden is under-stitching the facing – it’s just so fiddly.  To over come this, sometimes I just stitch the main fabric and the facing together, about 1 cm from the neckline.  For Laura’s version, I decided to use a fancy embroidery stitch on my Bernina and I really like how it turned out.

Photo courtesy of @cottonreelstudio (because I stupidly forgot to take a picture before sending!)

The Ida I also sent Laura was made out of suede my aunt gave me, and the lining (also patterned birds) was a remnant from one of my favourite fabric shops (Madjaks in Shere).  The zip was inherited from my grandmother (a master seamstress in her day), so it cost me next to nothing to put this together.

In return I received from Merri a beautiful Ogden in a tie dye like print (so very me!).

She also sent a beautiful Ida with a cute bee on the zip, and some handmade earrings – cannot get over how lovely these are.

2. Ogden dress hack 1.0

I had some fabric left over from the Ogden I made Laura as part of the Ogden swap, so decided to make myself a dress version.  Now, listen, this is a lesson in a) pre-washing fabric, and b) allowing for a bit more length lest your make become indecent in retrospect.

I now wear this dress as a nightie, and honestly, I needed more nightwear suitable for the hot weather, so it’s a welcome addition to my wardrobe.  I also had a tiny bit of the fabric left after that and made a cropped version of the Ogden to go with high waisted jeans/skirts.

3. Ogden dress hack 2.0 

I love an Instagram destash; (fellow millennials ignore this section, but for the sake of my dear mum eventually reading this..) this typically involves a sewist selling their spare fabric on Instagram to others who might get better use of it.  To me, it’s a great, sustainable way of sourcing fabric – you’re not creating additional demand for fabric, and you’re taking it off another sewist’s hands.

The fabric for this Ogden dress fabric came from @timetosew ‘s destash account (@makeyourstashdestash) on Instagram, and cost just £5 plus postage (the fiver went to charity too!).

I got a metre of Lady McElroy cotton, and I decided to see if I could squeeze out an Ogden dress.  Honestly – a cotton dress was all I wanted to be wearing this summer!  I really like how this turned out – I kept it midi length, and always wear a belt with it to cinch it in.

4. Ogden dress hack 3.0 

My final ogden dress hack used an elasticated waist (to eradicate the need for a belt).  I used a remnant I found at the aforementioned Madjaks, which ended up being just a metre of cotton printed with daisies.

I cut a bodice, finishing on the lengthen/shorten line.  I then cut two rectangles out of the remaining fabric I had, sewed the two together and created a channel to thread the elastic through.

I love how this turned out, but I did have to be pretty careful about the placement of the daisies…!

5. Silk Cami + Old Zara Top = A+ Ogden 

A sewing fail of mine that hasn’t been documented on the blog was a white Sew Over It Silk Cami I made earlier this year.  Its problem was that the fabric was quite sheer so you could see the facing underneath – not ideal.

Failed Silk Cami

I also had a RTW top from Zara that I bought online in the sale a few years ago and have never worn, for a couple of reasons: 1) it’s sheer, and 2) it’s too big.

RTW Zara top

I decided to see if I could combine these two fails into something usable.  Given the little fabric I had to play with, I settled on the trusty Ogden – surprise, surprise!

The Silk Cami ended up being the underlayer (omitting facings) and the lace from the Zara top went over the top.  I added ribbons for ties, because I didn’t have enough of the fabric to make my own.

I really love how this turned out, and I’ve had so much more wear out of it than the other two garments combined!

6. 2 x Refashioned Ogdens

My flatmate had a clear out of her wardrobe before we moved into our current place (last September!) and I’ve only just got round to refashioning a couple of skirts she decided weren’t for her anymore.

Both were short skirts with multiple rows of elasticated gathers.  I unpicked the rows of gathers during a viewing of Iron Man, and used the Ogden pattern to refashion them into more wearable tops.  I didn’t quite have enough of the main fabric for the facings, so I used a contrasting fabric I had in my stash.

The main lesson I’ve learnt with the Ogden over the past few months – if you don’t think you have enough fabric, you probably do if you make the facing or straps from a different, complementary material.  I kept the original hem from the skirts for ease (read: laziness).  I also used some ribbon for the straps because a) it was easier, and b) I didn’t quite have enough of the main fabric to make my own straps.

Verdict. 

Overall that makes 8  Ogden camis made by me (and one made for me).  Wow, I definitely love this pattern.  It’s so versatile and quick to sew, I’d definitely recommend it.  My next challenge is to try and widen the straps to make it work appropriate!

Ace Acton

When you’re invited to a fancy gala and you sew, it’s like a dream come true.  My friend invited me to a gala with the dress code ‘Lounge suits, cocktail dresses, and a touch of glamour!’ so of course I just had to make a new dress…

The Pattern.

I picked the Acton Dress by In The Folds, for a few reasons.  The first, I’ve seen so many beautiful versions of this dress on Instagram. Secondly, I love the halter neckline and it doesn’t use a huge amount of fabric, which is always a plus! I chose to make bodice version B and skirt version A, omitting the pockets.

The Fabric.

For this dress, I wanted to do a contrast bodice so I needed: bodice lace, bodice fabric, bodice lining, skirt fabric and skirt lining.

I had some left over gold Guipure style lace from another dress I made, which I used for the bodice lace.

The black bodice fabric I took from the first dress I ever made (see below). It’s about 15 years old, and miraculously still fits (?!) but is scandalously short now. I’ve kept it until now for sentimentality, but really I thought I’d rather refashion it into something I can actually wear. Plus I reused the ribbon from the straps!

The bodice lining was some pink lining scraps from my stash.

The main skirt fabric was some left over black double gauze from the Orsola dress I made for my MSc graduation.

Finally, the skirt lining was some left over black lining I had in my stash.

The only new thing I had to buy was the invisible zip in the centre back.

This truly was #sewingleftovers and good timing for Fashion Revolution Week, where we remember the Rana Plaza tragedy. It’s really made me think about not only Who Made My Clothes? (Me!) but also Who Made My Fabric? That’s why part of my Me Made May pledge is to buy only ethically sourced fabric or remnants.

The Make.

Overall, this was a relatively quick make – the bodice took me about 3 hours including cutting out (taking into account I had to cut the bodice 3 times for each of the lace, fabric and lining!). The skirt and skirt lining probably took another evening (3 hrs) and putting the bodice and skirt together, plus slip stitching the lining to the main dress and around the zip was another evening. Total? Probably 10 hours – so a good day of sewing.

Let me tell you – the lace is beautiful, but wow is it a pain to sew with. It frays like you wouldn’t believe and got stuck in the invisible zip multiple times. Not easy, but worth it in the end!

I treated the lace and the black bodice fabric as one, basically using the black fabric as an underlining. This helped stabilise the lace but it was a bit fiddly to start with and it did add a bit of time.

I made a couple of tiny alterations to the pattern. Firstly I sewed a wider seam allowance at the side seams (2 cm). Nothing major but it just allowed for a slightly better fit. Secondly I also shortened the dress by about 5 cm; I actually think I should have kept it a smidge longer but hey, I can’t go back now!

Verdict. 

I love this dress. It fits perfectly, and needed very little alteration. I’ve never sewn any In The Folds patterns before, but I’m sure I’ll sew more from now on. Now, if only I had more galas to wear this to, I’d be winning!

The Refashioners 2017

This year’s The Refashioners theme is Suits You – to refashion a suit into something else. I’ve never taken up the challenge before, but this year I’ve loved watching the Instagram blogger tour so I thought I’d give it a go!

First step, find a suit! I’ve recently moved to a new area so this gave me a great opportunity to explore my local charity shops. I found a real gem in the Fara charity shop. By some miracle (seriously I don’t know how) I live in quite a nice bit of London (my flatmate saw David Mitchell walking down the street the other day..) so the quality of their donations was… amazing. Items from Calvin Klein, Aquascutum, Ralph Lauren… Sadly they were all just jackets, not full suits and I decided I needed the fabric from the trousers too to be able to make something I’d wear again. I finally decided on a navy men’s suit originally from Reiss.

As you can see, the suit was slightly on the large side for me..! I recently listened to Portia Lawrie, the wondrous organiser of The Refashioners, on the Love to Sew podcast (listen to it if you haven’t already) – I completely agree with her ethos that there’s no point in refashioning something unless it’s going to be wearable. Based on that, I wanted something that I could at least wear to work – I just started a new job and I’m in desperate need of some office clothes!

I decided on a top with a peplum. I used the trousers for the front and back pieces and the jacket for the peplum. In reality, maybe I could have made use of more of the suit… Then again I think if I had, the piece I would have ended up with would have been less wearable – so, really I’m glad I kept it simple!

I added piping at the waistline between the bodice and the peplum. There’s also a keyhole back – the button is from the cuff of the jacket and I used the bias binding from the interior jacket as the loop for the button.

I’m pretty pleased with the results, definitely something I’ll wear to the office, with trousers and skirts!

I also think it works with jeans – not intended when I originally imagined it, but definitely a plus!

All in all, an excellent but very challenging refashioning theme! I struggled initially to work out what to make with the fabric from my suit, but I’m so pleased with what I ended up with!

Floaty Flowers – A Refashion

A few years ago I bought a dress from Topshop on Oxford Street. I’ll admit it – it was not a well thought out purchase. I’d spent a few hours trawling through the many, many racks of clothes with some friends and suddenly realised I needed to run for my train. At the time I thought ‘You can’t leave this shop without buying something, you’ve spent half your life (day) here’. So I grabbed this dress, didn’t try it on and brought it home. Yes, I wore it a few times but realistically it’s too short – the floaty fabric means you’ll likely have a Marilyn Monroe moment any time there’s even a slight breeze.

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I haven’t worn the dress in years so recently I decided it should either go to the charity shop or be refashioned into something more wearable.  I’m a bit in love with the fabric so I went down the refashioning route.  The dress is made up of three sections of floral fabric, a black lining and two ties at the side. I discounted reusing the top part – there was too little fabric to work with and the existing neckline just didn’t work on me.

P1020461

 

Instead, I saved the ties and focused on the skirt part of the dress. The fabric was horrible to work with. My sewing machine hated it – realistically that was probably because I haven’t changed the needle in quite a while, but I didn’t have a spare to hand and I was in too much of a sewing haze to leave the house to buy some more! The fabric also frayed like mad so I decided early on to use French seams wherever I could.

P1020475

 

I gathered the top of the skirt fabric and then reattached it to the lining, using a French seam. I had to add in a new side seam, so I created a key hole closure to get the top on and off. I also reused the side ties as straps and kept the original hem from the dress.

I actually really like how it turned out. It was a bit of a nightmare to sew because the fabric was so slippery – it’s paid off though, because the top has real movement.. as these rather embarrassing photos show…

 

Lilac Flowers – A Refashion

Refashioning. Not something I’ve really tried before. However recently my friend was packing up her clothes to move from Dublin to London and decided to get rid of a few things, including this Topshop dress. It didn’t fit her anymore, so she asked if I wanted it. The fabric is beautiful, a lilac floral Broderie Anglaise but the style and size of the dress weren’t quite right for me.

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I decided to refashion the dress as a ‘Welcome to London’ gift for her. I decided the bodice was a lost cause – the pieces were far too small to reuse. However, I did reclaim the front zip for another project – some would call me thrifty, others cheap… I’d like to think the former, but if we’re being realistic, it’s probably the latter..

I was left with the skirt and skirt lining fabric to make into something.  Consulting my pattern collection, I was pretty much guided by how little fabric I had to use. I decided on Simplicity K8128 View A.

My lack of fabric meant I had to chop two inches off the bottom of the top so it’s a good thing crop tops are in style!  The pattern also uses facings instead of a full lining, but because of the lacey nature of the fabric, I decided that just wouldn’t do.  In effect, I ended up just using the pattern pieces, ignoring the instructions and winging it! I think it worked out pretty well.. Here’s the finished product:

I kept the original hem wherever possible – I’d like to say that was clever forethought, but if we’re being realistic, it was really just motivated by my laziness.. P1020430.JPG

It has a lovely keyhole back. I have to say I felt pretty smug when I finished the whole thing off with one of my new labels from the Dutch Label Shop. I found the ribbon in a tin of laces and ribbons I inherited from my grandmother.

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This was my first finished sewing project after almost a year away from my sewing machine and I’ve got to say I was so relieved that I remember how to sew! Clearly, sewing is just like riding a bike..! I also feel a bit sad that I’ll be giving this away as a present – I’ve always been a selfish sewist – but it just means I’m going to have to make another one just for me!

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