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Refash., Uncategorized

The Refashioners 2016

Another year, another project done for The Refashioners challenge at Portia Lawrie’s website, the Makery. Last year I turned a shirt into a summer dress, this time around the item to be given a new life was a pair of jeans.

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I got mine from my favourite virtual charity shop: eBay. It was a large men’s, non-stretch, unbranded pair of blue jeans, and I think I paid about £5 for it (including delivery). I had no idea what to turn it into, all I knew was that making trousers would have been too easy and that I didn’t need another denim jacket, since I love the one I already own. So I decided to turn it into a dress that isn’t too tacky – not too sure if I managed to achieve this…😀

I started looking for something structured and minimalistic, so I searched for dresses made of leather, but couldn’t really find anything interesting. While I was researching ideas for the tablecloth dress, I stumbled upon a beautiful Delpozo number and I knew straight away that I found what I was after.

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With my new found courage for pattern drafting, I made one for it in no time. After adding a bit of boning, I managed to resolve the issue with the gaping of the under-bust area, that must have been avoided by using pre-shaped foams in the original dress. I am pretty sure that I was supposed to add boning to the side seams, but to be super honest I was too lazy to go back and do it (again).

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The bodice was relatively easy to put together after having a go at it while making up the toille, but I did not have any plans for the skirt. I just attached it with some pleats in place to match the waistline, and then worked it out from there. Unfortunately I did not have enough fabric for the style I would normally wear (A-line or a circle skirt), so I went with a pencil skirt – that not only makes cycling fairly difficult, it also makes the dress look more formal than intended.

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I did not realize that I created a horrible little pouch on the front of the skirt by turning the pleats into impromptu (and way too long) darts in the last-minute, so please excuse that mess.

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I am pretty happy with the fit on the back though. The pockets have been slightly moved, darts hidden behind them, and an invisible zipper inserted. I was going to use a golden exposed zip all the way down the back, but I had to admit to myself that the invisible zipper looked a tad bit more classy than the shiny one. In order to try out the two different looks, I inserted both zips twice, then when I decided to stay with the invisible one, it broke while trying it on. Realizing that I can’t fix it, and therefore I will have to buy and insert a new one was one of the less relaxing moments of sewing, to put it mildly…🙂

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Do you know that feeling when you are cooking a very fancy, very complicated dinner, and when you sit down to eat after hours of sweating over it, you just don’t feel hungry anymore. No? Well, that’s how I feel about this dress anyway.🙂

While I am quite happy about how that sad pair of jeans got transformed, and about the relative success of my pattern cutting, I doubt that I will wear this dress a lot next summer. I will either change the skirt totally, turn it into something else, or give it away…

Do check out the other entries too, they are pretty mind-blowing! And again, thanks for the photos Robbie!

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From scratch

The crochet bikini top

I tried my hands at making swimwear last year (see the most successful outcome, the bikini brief below), and I have to say it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever sewn. That was one of the reasons for not attempting to make more before our recent holiday. The other one was the difficulty of finding proper swimsuit fabric in London, so I decided to try a different approach this time.

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I was never a big fan of crochet bikinis, but I really liked the fact that it can be easily replicated at home. That’s if you know how to crochet, of course. I didn’t. But what is a 6 hour flight good for, if not for learning a new craft, am I right?🙂

I did learn how to do the first chain super quickly, but doing the second row just made no sense at all. If you do something for a while there might just be a point when it all clicks, and luckily it did. Once I finished one of the cups (by following this video) and could see that it didn’t quite look the way it was supposed to, I was confident enough to go back and start again.

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By starting again, I mean pulling out the whole thing and redoing it, this time a lot neater. I managed to finish it on our way to the hotel, but unfortunately I could not actually test it in action, as it simply didn’t do the job. The problem is that the cups are really gaping, unless I pull the neck straps tight. If I do that, however, then the strap that goes around my back won’t stay in place, and I still get exposed, just in a different way.

All is not lost though, I think if I undo the straps where the cups meet, make the cups a little longer, turn them under to form a case for the straps like in normal bikinis, then I’ll be able to feed a strap through the case and move the cups where they fit best. Now I just need some inspiration on where to wear it next, and the work can commence…😉

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Tanzania is probably the closest it gets to paradise on Earth. The safari, especially in the Ngorongoro Crater is breathtaking, and Zanzibar has the most beautiful beaches you can imagine. Stone Town is a very lively city with amazing architecture, and you can definitely find peace and quiet in the fishing villages on the East side of the island.

Trying out surfing and snorkeling for the first time by the Mnemba Island made me instantly fall in love with the sports, in spite of being so scared of the fish beforehand that I was considering staying in the boat.🙂 We had the most amazing time, mostly because we were lucky enough to find the nicest people whenever we needed help.

I somehow feel the need to mention that there is another side of Tanzania too. I have been to many developing countries before where I felt bad about being on holiday, enjoying the beautiful surroundings while the locals are struggling to make ends meet, but this time for some reason I felt very strongly about actually making a change in the way these things work. It may not come to anything, but maybe one day I can share my grand plans here…😉

 

Travels

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The Secret Costumier - The red dress
From scratch

The red dress

On Monday I decided to check out the Notting Hill Carnival for the third time since I’ve been a Londoner. For the first time I actually had some fun.🙂 I wore a dress that I made at the very beginning of summer, but have had no chance to wear it until now.

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It’s pretty much a replica of a dress by Reformation that I spotted a few months ago. I didn’t have a pattern, so I just had to work it out while sewing it, but I think it does the job.

Image source: Reformation Carson dress

There is only one seam at the back, the top bit is lined with the same fabric, and the edges are bound with a bias binding, also made of the red knit. Luckily you can’t really see that the lining is slightly smaller, so the fabric is kind of gathering around the armholes. It was supposed to be a very simple sew, but binding knits is not my specialty, to put it mildly…

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The dress turned out to be a really comfortable wear, even cycling was fine in it. The only reason why it won’t be my go to summer dress is the combination of being skin-tight AND backless, but if you’ve seen photos of the Carnival, you can imagine that it was just the right choice for the occasion.😉

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dress upcycled from a tablecloth
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#usedtobeatablecloth: The reveal!

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing” (Camille Pissarro)

And it’s over. The summer and the #usedtobeatablecloth challenge too. Hopefully some of you have found inspiration here in the past few weeks, and there are tablecloths out there turned into something wearable and cherished.

Two sewing friends definitely did, and turned their charity shop finds into some beautiful pieces of clothing.

Marijana, from Sew2Pro, found a very similar tablecloth to what I made my Little White Dress from. She decided to dye it to indigo and made a spaghetti strap summer dress. I really love the placement of the lace details and the interesting neckline, and as far as I know there is some leftover fabric, so watch that space!

Kaci, from Textile and Stitch, bought this crochet tablecloth for a mere $1 and turned it into something Anthropologie would sell for about 200 times more.🙂 I think it’s super difficult to find anything crocheted that doesn’t look too cute or granny like, but with the simple design and it being monochrome, she managed to pick something that goes very well with a contemporary outfit. It might just be my laziness, but I always love a nice use of the border for the hems, and the ones on this jacket look absolutely perfect.

And I’m done with my dress too, finally…

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

We went to my favourite park to have a picnic and take some photos (thank you Robbie!), and I think I got a bit more comfortable than I was supposed to in this kind of dress, so I had to pull the dress up a few times… I am now thinking of inserting boning into the sides and maybe even into the front seam lines, but it’s not high on my list of priorities at the moment.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

I already went into detail about how this dress came together, so I will not bore you with that anymore.🙂 While I was making it, I felt that excitement that I haven’t felt in a long time during sewing.

You know, that feeling when you can see something you are working on taking shape, and you haven’t eaten for 5 hours, because you just don’t want to waste time on that instead of getting to the point where you can try it on for the first time. And you try it on. And you realise that even though you will probably only wear it a handful of times, whenever you look at it you will still be happy that you have created something you find beautiful.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The dress

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TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction
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#usedtobeatablecloth: The construction

After about two weeks of an intense search for inspiration, I finally came up with a plan that I was happy enough with to start work on my third item that #usedtobeatablecloth.

I already knew that the tablecloth itself will be turned into a circle skirt, and I had an idea about the silhouette too, so I was just looking for a bodice with some nice seam lines. I went with the same design as the one on the swimsuit below, but looking at the final result now, I am pretty sure that subconsciously I was going for a Dior look after watching the Dior and I documentary a few days before finalizing the plan…

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I decided to draft my own pattern, because I have recently experimented with a design using my brand new bodice block (drafted to my size), and I was really happy with the results.

First I measured where I would like the top of the bodice to finish, and where the dart should finish, by wearing the toille for the original block. Then I took these measurements and transferred them onto my copied bodice pattern.

After this, I just marked where I would like the seam lines to be, and decided how wide the opening on the back should be for a lace up closure. Once I had all these lines, I copied the new pattern pieces to plain paper, one by one, and closed/opened the darts where it was necessary. After adding the seam allowances, I was ready to make a toille.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

I was trying to buy some calico in my local fabric shop, but it was way too expensive, so I bought some polycotton instead. After making up the toille from it, laziness triumphed and I decided it will also serve as the lining. I actually didn’t even think about lining it at first, not because I didn’t want to, but simply because I totally forgot about it.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

The size of the circle that was cut out (to turn the tablecloth into a circle skirt) was based on my waist measurement plus seam allowance, and I deducted the gap I needed to leave for the lace up back opening.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

The bodice’s pattern pieces were cut out from 3 napkins, out of the 8 that came with the tablecloth, and were arranged more sensibly than on the photo, of course.🙂 Two napkins probably would have been enough though, was I not an idiot who used a pen to mark the dart points, and ironed the interfacing onto the right side of the fabric…

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

I was really unsure about what kind of interfacing to use. Out of the two on hand, one was soft and drapey, but quite thick, as I bought it to use on a winter coat for a little added warmth. The other one was a piece I bought to use on a pair of structured trousers. I decided to go for the latter one, as I thought that as much as I would like to keep the qualities of the fabric, the bodice is very fitted and does actually require some structure.

The piece of fabric I used for the lining of the skirt turned out to be too small to cover more than my bum, so I decided I should try to add some tulle (yay to no hemming!) to make it long enough, and just see what happens… The-accidental-making-of-a-50s-cocktail dress, that’s what happens!😀

As soon as I tried it on, I knew I didn’t want to turn it back into a simple summer dress anymore. All I wanted was a friend or relative to get married, or be knighted (like that’s gonna happen) immediately so that I can wear it with my incredibly uncomfortable silver heels, sipping cocktails in a beautiful garden. You get the idea…

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth -The construction

The last step, that took approximately 7 hours, was making rouleau loops for the lace up back, sewing them on and sewing the back of the skirt shut. I have just read Marijana’s post on how she wrestled to make them for her version of the tablecloth dress, and I must say I totally understand her struggle.

I managed to turn mine inside out, and for the second try I even succeeded to line them up (close-enough to) perfectly. As for the “lace”…well, that I mucked up totally. It took me about 45 minutes to turn it inside out, just to find out that I sewed the wrong sides together and now the seam allowances where the bits were joined together are on the right side. Oh well… Once I figure out what I’m gonna do with it, I will show you how it all turned out!

In the meantime you can already check out Marijana’s beautiful indigo dyed #usedtobeatablecloth dress. She used a similar tablecloth to the one I made my first dress out of, and she managed to transform it stunningly!

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TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The material & the pattern
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#usedtobeatablecloth: The material & the pattern

When I thought about putting together the #usedtobeatablecloth sewing challenge, I didn’t actually think there would be anyone joining me. Luckily, and to my biggest delight, there are some very inspiring people out there who thought it would be a good idea to make something out of a tablecloth. By now, some of these ladies even have their pattern pieces cut out. As for me, I have just decided what direction to take when chopping mine up….

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The material & the pattern

I got this circular tablecloth for £6.60 (including postage), and it came with 8 matching napkins as well! I was a bit surprised by the texture of the fabric, as I assumed it would be similar to the white cotton one I used to make the Little White Dress. In reality, it’s a very soft fabric, fairly densely woven, using probably somewhat synthetic, pretty thick yarn.

TheSecretCostumier - #usedtobeatablecloth - The material & the pattern

It has white embroidery, some drawn thread-work decorations and a scalloped hem. The napkins are mostly plain, with only one little flower embroidery on them.

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The plan is to use the tablecloth as a circle skirt, by simply cutting out a hole in the middle to the size of my waist (plus seam allowance, of course!). After this, I would use the remaining fabric and some of the napkins to make the bodice.

Burdastyle pattern & dress, Selfportrait dress, Asos white dress

Right now, I’m thinking of going with a basic shape, either with some sort of cups attached to the middle bit (like on the pink & white dress), or I might use my trusty Burdastyle pattern again (first two images)!

Since the front would be fairly simple, on the back I am going to attempt to make a laced up opening to make it a little more exciting, as well as more office appropriate than my usual open back dresses.

I should be able to finalize these plans during the week and start sewing it this weekend…Fun times!🙂

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