Refash., Thrift Store Thursdays

Quick mum jeans refashion

I scored these pair of jeans on a “vintage fair”. It was more the kind where you find used clothes on the floor, most of them looking unwashed, but only for a £1 each. I don’t really wear jeans, so I wouldn’t spend anything over a pound on it anyway, and they were in pretty good condition, so I decided to get them. I prefer the loose fit, and since it was on the bigger side it was a perfect candidate for alteration. Thrift Store Thursdays - Black jeans refashion

Thrift Store Thursdays - Black jeans refashion

Thrift Store Thursdays - Black jeans refashion I’ve actually worn them twice in their original form right after I bought them. Looking at the before pictures now, I don’t really know what I was thinking though… :)

Since they had no back pockets and an elasticated back, it was easy to make them fit on my waist by sewing some darts on.

I still kind of feel like there’s a bit of excess on the lower legs, but I wanted to keep them as comfy as possible and I’ve already reduced the excess twice, so knowing how lazy I am, they will stay like this for now.

Thrift Store Thursdays

Military jacket refashion

Who knows how it all started, but at some point I became a thrift store junkie. I love the hunt for the next bargain. I love the opportunities the pieces hold. I love the idea of giving something old a new life. To celebrate this new love (and to motivate myself to actually do the alterations these poor old pieces require), I decided to do 1 post about a thrift store find’s alteration every month from now on.

To start the series off, I chose the biggest project as of yet: a military jacket I bought on Brick Lane for £2.

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

I’ve always wanted a military style jacket, but instead of the ones you can buy everywhere, in every season, with the cinched in waists for women, I was looking for the real deal. Since the smaller sized proper ones were more like shirts, when I saw this huge jacket, lined with the same fabric, I decided to go for it and just hope for the best. After doing a little research, I found out that this was a Dutch NATO combat jacket, that usually sells for about £20 on eBay…

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

I started out by disassembling it (and ripping the lining at one point :( ). Then I took in the sides and the sleeves, but because I really didn’t feel like removing and resizing the pockets, I ended up with an A-line jacket at first. Unfortunately, instead of using a pattern, I just took in the same amount on the front and the back, and I ended up with the back being very tight.

I wanted to have a removable lining and removable faux fur collar, but I had to sew the lining to the coat, and attach the collar with safety pins, so that I can finish it within 2 days from start, and wear it on the Berlin trip. It looked and felt awful to be honest.  It was too tight in places and way too loose at others, there were threads hanging out everywhere, and I had to hold it together with a belt, as I did not manage to put buttons or a zip on it. But even if it looked like crap, I think I was the one complaining the least about the cold during our little wintry holiday. :)

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

When we came back, I kind of felt like shoving it in a box to finish it next year, but I didn’t. And I’m happy I chose to put all this work into it, as it’s a pretty useful thing to have, and I absolutely adore the collar.

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

So on this updated version I made a lining out of contrasting cotton lawn fabrics, with a little piping made of the golden material used for the removable lining’s sleeves. By the way, the removable lining is made of a faux shearling fabric and the golden quilted batting, and the faux fur collar is the most expensive fabric I’ve ever bought, but it is pretty good quality I guess…

There is a zipper on the jacket, hidden by a flap, with fabric covered con it. To attach the lining to the jacket, I used fabric loops on the jacket to match the buttons sewn on the lining. I inserted  metal suspender clasps into the faux fur collar, which can be clipped on the jacket’s collar. Because everything is removable, I should be able to wear it pretty much all year round in London.

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier

Whoever sews will know how hard it is to admit one’s mistake and to refashion-a-refashion (or something you’ve made from scratch), but I’m quite happy I went for it. Even though removing the pocket flaps, for example, and resizing them was hard work with very little impact, it meant that I could fix the coat from being A-line to a better fitting straight one, and it ended up being something that I love to wear because I like the way it looks, and not just because it is the warmest thing I own.

 DIY - Military jacket refashion by TheSecretCostumier


military before after


Sneak peak #4

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier
From scratch

The Berlin Bag

I made a bag guys! This is the first non-clothing item I’ve made that’s actually super useful and looks pretty much as I imagined it.

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

We planned a trip to Berlin with some friends (and my sis, of course), with the flight arriving at 9am and a check in time at 2pm. Since I didn’t feel like carrying my stuff around in my hand all day, I decided to make a backpack. And the endless research for the perfect backpack started. I already had a Pinterest board for bag ideas, but this time I focused on roll top backpacks. I wanted something that’s stylish, simple and expandable.

The problem with the ones for sale, apart from being overpriced, is that they tend to be more on trend and less functional in my eyes. Most of them have the vintage looking buckle fastening (which is just a hassle to open/close) and the sleek looking, unpadded leather/canvas straps don’t look comfortable to me at all. After spending hours looking at the DIY options, the handmade ones on Etsy, and pretty much every vintage looking/cycling rucksack on Pinterest, I found that  the HHI Day Pack and the Voyatzer Backpack bags that seemed to be the closest to what I had in mind.

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The bag’s top can be folded or rolled down. I thought a lot about how to close the sides under the flap, and I am more than happy with the solution, as I didn’t want to insert a zipper and I didn’t really trust putting a button there.

The leather cover on the bottom was made of a piece of leather that I scored for about £4 in Fes, Morocco last year. I bought some black cotton drill to do the top bit, but since it was a different shade of black, I got the chevron patterned wool instead. I’ve checked the measurements of other similar bags and measured my torso length before I cut the fabric out. In the construction of the straps and the back panel, this tutorial proved to be very helpful (it’s a somewhat unusual source, I don’t quite want to know what the guns are for…). I got my hardware from this eBay shop, and all I regret is not getting more at the same time (so that I can make more bags! :) ).

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

Pretty much everything went smoothly except for one thing. My machine can’t sew more than 2 layers of leather. There were parts on this bag where I had to attach 3 layers of leather, 2 layers of wool, and 2 layers of the lining fabric. It was not fun. It took me about 4 hours to do it by rolling the machine by hand…but it’s done!! Ever since then my sewing machine runs a little weird, so I’m thinking about getting a half industrial vintage one, or something more heavy weight as a replacement in the not so near future. If you have any suggestions on what machine to get next, I’m all ears!

All in all, I am pretty much in love with my little “Berlin Bag”. If it wasn’t as heavy as it is, I would definitely take it to the South East Asia trip too, but since it is, I must make another one. So watch this space! :)

The Berlin Bag - Handmade by TheSecretCostumier

From scratch, Wardrobe Architect

2015 – Resolution time!

It has taken me some time to finalize my resolutions for this year, but I think I’m quite comfortable with these ones.

1. Finish my Wardrobe Architect project

My sister and I finally got ourselves a ticket to our first backpacking trip ever! We’ve been around Europe on city breaks and in Africa on family visits, but this will be the first longer trip we are taking together. According to our plans, we will visit Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in 3 weeks, with a stopover in Abudhabi, carrying only a backpack. A small backpack that is, as for the domestic flights we are only allowed to take 7 kilos if we want to avoid the hassle and costs of checking anything in.
So the plan is to use the guidelines of the Wardrobe Architect project and create myself a capsule vacation wardrobe that’s comfortable, multifunctional and suits my style for the trip.

TheSecretCostumier - Wardrobe Architect - Silhoutette 10

2. Be more mindful about my body

I’m not a beach person. I’ve never felt comfortable half-naked in public, but it’s never been a problem, as I would rather visit cities with good restaurants, museums and the likes for holiday than lie on a beach for a week with nothing else to do.

But. This. Is. Phi Phi. And Koh Lanta. And Ha Long Bay and the rest of the mind-blowingly beautiful places that I can’t possibly miss because I don’t feel comfortable in my skin. So as a new years resolution, I swear I’ll be on it. I have started a new skin care regime, I’ll try to discover some activities in addition to my daily cycling and I’ll try to eat more sensibly – no more brioche buns for a while… :(

3. Look after my two favorite machines

I love my bike and I love my sewing machine. Therefore this year I pledge to keep them in top shape by cleaning them regularly and getting them looked at when something doesn’t feel right. I have also been thinking about updating my bike, with a few new and shiny parts and maybe even with a coat of paint…

As for the sewing machine, I NEED to make a cover for it first (I know, I’m sooo bad for not having one since I bought it 3 or 4 years ago), and I might even get the vintage one out of storage and into action.



4. Kick a bad habit & move forward…

These are the kind of resolutions that I’m a little half-assed about, but maybe if I put this reminder here, it will be easier to push myself and hold myself accountable for them.

5. Go out & do something at least once a week

Don’t let laziness get in the way of doing new things! I aim to be more active, to see and do more, be it just a new film, eating out with friends, or making the most of this wonderful city and actually go to new exhibitions, plays, to the roller-disco, or to just discover new bits of London.  On le bike of course!


6. Empty out my closet

I have soooo many clothes that I don’t use, I just need to go through them and decide what goes to charity, what can be sold and what would be great for upcycling before I make/buy even more stuff. By the end of 2015 I would only like to own garments that I love and use.

This is pretty much it for this year, well for the next 11 months really… No more resolutions about blogging or sewing consistently, as I realized that I blog because I sew and not the other way around, which pretty much ended my 2 year long agony over this matter.



From scratch

Sneak peak #3

From scratch

Au revoir 2014!

After going about 3 months without sewing, I finally found my sewjo again. I already have some plans that I sometimes find terrifying after abandoning the craft for so long, but if I think about how I spent my last week (in bed, playing Farm Heroes) and how I’ve spent these past two days (sewing like crazy!), then I’m quite optimistic about those plans. So instead of reviewing my makes from 2014, I decided to take a look at my resolutions from 12 months ago, to find out how well I’ve done this year, before I set new goals for myself for 2015!

Tick1. Start a Fashion Design course

I signed up for this course as I wanted to find a way to put all the inspiration into action. I haven’t done any new projects since the one we had to work on for 3 months, which is a bit of a shame. At least if I had the right idea, now I know I could start developing designs using the techniques we were taught.

My collection was based on the Tarahumara tribe living in Mexico. I’m planning on writing a bit more on this, but here are a few photos of it for now:

Tick2. Start learning French.

Je ne parle pas français. Still. I did try it for 3 months, but I only realized that learning a new language as an adult, in a group, is too frustrating and somehow slow at the same time. For me, at least. I haven’t given up on the idea totally, but this is not a priority right now.

ex3. Start playing cello from September.

Did not start playing cello. Will not start playing cello in 2015. Will keep on listening to this one though. (No need to look at the video. Really.)

ex4. Make a wedding dress for a friend.

This is a fail, but I did not chicken out! My friend got married sooner than we both expected, so instead of making a wedding dress, I ended up making a baby sleeping bag-turned-blanket for her. It will hopefully come in handy to take the little one home from the hospital. I’ll show you pictures of the finished blanket with the baby inside, until then, here is what it’s made of:

fashion design pic 11

ex/Tick5. Finish my UFOs & use up my stash.

I did not manage to touch my “core stash” (that box below) unfortunately. However, I managed to use up quite a few larger scraps I have been hoarding for a while.  I made 4(!!!) garments this way, one of which is probably my all time favourite piece of clothing (not pictured).

I also made a habit of posting sneak peaks of projects I was very excited about at the time, just to give up on completing them right before the finish (adding buttons, hemming, etc.), but going through the posts I realized that I have finished just about as many as I left unfinished this year. Here are a few of these:

All in all, there is definitely room for improvement on this one, so I’ll be trying hard to come up with a good solution for this year and get rid of the contents of this box…

stash diet1

Tick6. Make a dressform.

Done! :)

ex7. Try fabric dyeing.

Not done.

ex8. Make/wear handmade jewellery.

Nope. I did buy/wear some awesome (mass-produced) jewellery though…

Tick9. Dress more adventurously.

I think the evidence of improvement in this area is my newfound addiction to vintage Japanese kimonos. I bought these 3 beauties in the past 3 months and the 4th is on its way… Now all I need is warm weather!

ex/Tick10. Be more consistent with blogging/ stress less about failing to do so.

Me Made May was an amazing challenge that helped me get used to posting more frequently than ever before. Then came the summer. Then 6 weeks of 7 day work weeks. Then the Christmas holiday…

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was – at some point during this year – more consistent with posting. BUT. I did spend the second half of the year rather guilt-ridden for not making blogging (or sewing, for that matter) a priority. Sooo…apparently I still don’t have a clue how to get this right.

Tick11. Join a sewing group, preferably create find a local one.

Success! Kind of. Ladies and Gentlemen, I co-created a knitting club in 2014. Yup, it runs every Thursday at the local pub, we have dinner, gossip chat and knit for a few hours after work. The members are actually my colleagues, including my boss (she is the pro!). I have just learned how to knit properly (my mum had previous attempts to teach me, without much success), and I managed to pick the hardest first project ever. Obviously I have already ditched the pattern and started freestyling, so if it all goes well, I should have a top by May. :) Oh, and out of pure jealousy of other club members (who are on their 3rd scarves already), I’ve also started making the simplest snood ever. See?

fashion design pic 10

fashion design pic 9

ex12. Sell something I’ve made.

When I started sewing about 3 or 4 years ago I had this eureka moment. I still remember making my first dress, without knowing anything about dressmaking at all, listening to jazz in the background and having this unexplainable smile on my face. I just knew this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. So 3 (or 4) years on, even though I quite like what I do for a living, I would still love to do something in the future that involves sewing. As for now, after spending this past year with half-heartedly coming up with business ideas, I decided to give myself a break and keep sewing for what it used to be: FUN.

Tick+1: Fall in love.

Well, this was a really exciting and fun year in this department, but I did not actually fall in love…just yet! (I will still give myself a point for trying!) ;)

And that makes it even! I have succeeded to do just as many things as I have failed to do. Do you guys have any recycled or new resolutions for 2015? Any tried and trusted methods for making yourself finish what you have started?

Btw, happy New Year!