Hi, It’s hard to believe that September is well underway. I thought I’d sew more summer things but I didn’t quite have the time (or motivation) to sew as much as I wanted to.
In June, I wrote a post about my summer WIPs (works in progress). Out of the six things I mentioned, I finished two (my fourth Deer & Doe Chardon Skirt and my third By Hand London Anna Dress – for the International Anna Party). I said I was going to make the dress pictured on the cover of the Japanese sewing book Basic Black but I still haven’t traced the pattern (whoops). It was intended for the Sundress Sew-a-long organized by Handmade by Heather B. Maybe next year, Heather!
Did you do any summer sewing? What did you make? In August I started working on a refashion project for two reasons: 1. Tuttle Publishing asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing a couple of Japanese sewing books and Stylish Remakes by Violette Room, was one of them. The other was Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori. I hadn’t heard of Violette Room, a Japanese clothing company, but the book seemed interesting.
2. I had just found out via Instagram about The Refashioners challenge organized by Portia Lawrie – create something from a men’s shirt. (See the impressive lineup of sewing bloggers who stepped up to the challenge on this Makery post.) So I was game and told Tuttle, “YES! Send the books!” [Note: I am not being paid to review these books. I was given the books with the understanding that I would provide an honest review.]
This super-long post includes my review of Stylish Remakes, my first men’s shirt refashion, and a giveaway of this book! Details on entering the giveaway are at the end of this post. (I’ll be reviewing – and giving away a copy of – Stylish Party Dresses in a later post.)
I took photos of this much-washed Brooks Brothers shirt that I got for free at a swap event in San Francisco a couple of years ago. As you can see, this size 17.5 “relaxed fit” shirt is quite voluminous.
I flipped through Stylish Remakes to see what ideas could be useful for the Refashioners challenge. The book features a total of 25 ideas categorized into six sections, labeled as follows: T-shirts, Flannel Shirts, Borders, College Sweats, Gabardine Coats, and Bandannas. “Borders” seems to refer to garments with stripes. Also included in this section is a detachable collar that you make and embellish with beads. “College sweats” refers to sweatshirts.
There are anywhere from three to six ideas in each category. Some of them are quite simple – shorten the T-shirt sleeves, add a bow, attach a skirt to make a dress, sew a scarf to the top to make a tunic (design no. 14). I’ve taken photos from the book so you can see some examples (excuse the poor lighting!).
None of the ideas in the book are particularly complicated. Only a few designs approach the more radical transformations of Charity Shop Chic or Refashionista. BUT if you haven’t tried to refashion or upcycle a garment before, this book will give you some good ideas to get started – and then you can add your own design changes. The book seems aimed more at the fashionista than the sewist. The book flap says “With just a little cutting and sewing you can create fun and funky new pieces… Anyone can do it and anyone can wear it.”
If you’ve made anything from a Japanese sewing book, you’ll be familiar with the format – photos of models wearing the garments, followed by instructions with detailed diagrams. There are only a couple of patterns in the book, a collar, a bow, and a cat, which you enlarge on a photocopier. There aren’t any patterns for the other projects because you’re refashioning existing garments (and bandannas) into something else.
Here’s an upcycled sweatshirt made into a mini dress (design no. 17) – not something I’d make or wear.
An outfit made from a striped long-sleeve tee and a Liberty print dress (design no. 12). A simple idea that I may use. I’ve got a RTW striped top and cheap skirt that may be more interesting as a dress.
Here’s a coat restyled using different parts of a scarf as the collar and design elements sewn on the coat (“Coat with Scarf and Details,” no. 20). The horses are from the scarf. I really like the scarf-used-as-collar idea. I’ve got an old vintage coat with a rather dirty collar. I’ll try dry cleaning it first but if that doesn’t work, I’ll try this clever idea.
This tot is absolutely adorable in this camisole and skirt made from a bandanna (design no. 24).
Both pieces are made from one 20.5 inch x 20.5 inch (52 cm x 52 cm) bandanna. The book recommends that you use an old bandanna that’s soft and drapey, which will feel nice to the little one. So cute!
The book has five ideas for refashioning men’s flannel shirts. They’re not complicated to execute but you need some basic sewing knowledge to understand the construction explanations, which heavily rely on diagrams as much as the words to explain the details.
This “Half-and-Half Dress” (design no. 7) is one of the more interesting and clever designs. You button the two shirts together (moving buttons if they don’t line up) and use the cut-off sleeve pieces to make the shoulder straps. The leftover sleeve pieces (still attached to the shirt) form pockets – very nice. I’m not a fan of flannel shirts but I really like this design idea. I could see making this with two (non-flannel) shirts.
Before I get into my project, here’s my conclusion about this book: I wouldn’t make most of the projects in it because they’re not my style BUT I really like the ideas for the flannel shirts and the coat collar. So it’s worth it for the sewing tips to create those garments.
I wanted to try making a blouse from the men’s shirt so first I thought I’d try the “Jacket with a Gathered Waist” (design no. 8), which wasn’t really a jacket (maybe a fault in the translation?). I liked the 3/4 gathered sleeves.
You remove the shirt cuff, shorten the sleeve and reattach the cuff to the shortened sleeves. Then you fold the hem up and sew a casing for the elastic. Pretty simple, right?
Well, I made a mistake when I trimmed my sleeves. I cut them too short. After I sewed on one cuff, I tried it on and realized it was too tight on my forearm. Ack. I measured from my shoulder point to where I wanted the sleeve to end. However, I wasn’t paying attention to the fact that the sleeve is cut at an angle to give it additional ease so you’ll have more to gather at the cuff. Darn. I marked the sleeve on the fold a few inches below my elbow point instead of at the sleeve seam (below my inner elbow). Here’s what that sleeve looked like with the cuff attached.
If you make this top, put on your shirt, pull up the sleeve to determine what length you want it to be. Make sure the cuff is at a comfortable spot on your arm so it’s not too tight. Mark the sleeve at the length you want at the seam line, not on the outside of the sleeve. The book gives you a measurement for where to cut the sleeve but I ignored it because I have long arms and I knew it would be too short if I used the book’s measurement.
Now I had two cuffs that I wasn’t going to use. I played around with them, trying to see if there was another way to use them. How about a pocket? I liked this idea but didn’t reuse them for this shirt because the cuff was rather thick and didn’t seem right for this shirt. I’ve saved them though and may reuse them for something else.
I had to change plans and decided to go with short sleeves. I flipped to design no. 9 – the “Big Bow Blouse.” I wasn’t keen on the bow but I liked the collar and sleeves so I thought I’d give it a try.
I removed the left front pocket and I made the sleeves shorter but the armholes were really gaping.
Clearly, I needed to get rid of some excess fabric. So I stitched a new side seam. The point of the pencil is where the new seam is.
I trimmed off the curving parts of the shirt hem so I could have a straight hem all around. I saved those curving bits for later. Now the shirt looked like this. The hem is pinned. As you can see the sleeves stick out a bit.
The book says that if the sleeve opening was too wide (hell yes!), to “overlap the sleeve under the arm and stitch.” Hmmm. The translation is a little awkward here but the diagram offers a better explanation.
This makes the sleeve fit more closely to the upper arm as you’ll see in the photos below.
Cutting off the collar left a slightly frayed edge, which I wanted to hide. Also, the collar seemed rather plain because I wasn’t using a flannel shirt with more visual interest.
So I looked at the collar I removed, then I trimmed off about 3/8 inch (1 cm) to remove the top-stitched edge. This left me with the top and bottom collar pieces and its interfacing (note: not a fusible). I joined the two pieces together in the middle with a flat felled seam to make one long strip with curved ends. Now I had a long strip of fabric roughly twice the length of the collar stand, which would make a nice ruffle.
I finished the curved edge with a 1/8 inch (about 3 mm) hem and the straight edge with a zigzag stitch. Then I sewed two lines of gathering stitches on the zig zag side.
Here’s the collar gathered and attached reattached to the shirt. I don’t usually wear anything with ruffles so this was a fun experiment. The ruffle is a single layer of fabric but the gathering makes it stiff enough to stand up. I stitched it right on top of the collar stand, which is a bit of a sloppy finish but I didn’t feel like ripping out the stitching on the collar stand to open it up and insert the ruffle.
I nixed an elastic waist like design no. 8 (above). So I trimmed the bottom and I used the leftover sleeve pieces to make a belt. They were huge sleeves! I didn’t have enough fabric for one long piece so I used two pieces of fabric for each side of the belt. You can see the seam just to the right of my fingers.
I had a belt kit I got from the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse and used that to make the belt. It came with the belt backing, buckle and eyelets.
The shirt fabric was pretty thin though so it didn’t quite lay flat but one side looked better than the other so I put that on the outside, attached the buckle and inserted the eyelets, which are really huge and not too attractive. Oh well.
I tried on the shirt again but it was still too big because I didn’t take out enough from the side seams. Oops. But I liked the sleeves. I followed the instructions from the diagram above and now the sleeves don’t stick out as much. Nice, eh?
I posted this image to Instagram (@csews) wondering if it was too long and I received some helpful comments from several people. Mari (@ddisciplines) of Seamster Patterns suggested fish-eye darts and others suggested inverted pleats or tucks. Of course this meant I needed to remove/replace the pocket. Gee, I had done such nice top stitching on it! Poo.
I had finished one side seam with a French seam and I didn’t want to unpick it (lazy). Thus I decided to go with fish-eye darts, which would provide some waist definition. I decided to take an incremental approach so the dart was no more than 3/8 inch at its widest point (measuring from the center of the dart). And at some point in the process, I decided to go with a curving hem so it’s shorter in front and is longer in back as you’ll see in the finished photos below.
Here’s the shirt with a total of six fish-eye darts. I started out with just two on each side but that wasn’t enough. Then I sewed six inverted pleats in the back, which brought in the waist a bit more and then it looked like this. Still a bit roomy but I decided to call it quits.
By this time, I think I’d been tinkering with this shirt for a couple of weeks. If you follow me on IG, you may have seen some of my WIP photos. I didn’t expect to get so involved in it but I was having a lot of fun changing it as I went along.
OK, you might remember that I mentioned cutting off the curving parts of the original shirt hem. Here they are.
I took one of them and gathered the edge…
… and made it into a flower, which I pinned to my hat.
Now, drum roll please….
Here’s the final version without the belt. (Note on the pose: I’m trying out a “shoulders back, hips out” pose here – not realizing that it makes the shirt stick out in front. Whoops. It I were standing normally, it would lay flat.)
And here it is with the belt.
And all those inverted pleats! I should have taken more fabric out of the back. It’s a little puffy there. I used the width of the original pleat sewn in the back yoke to set the width of all the waist pleats. I started out with three and ended up with six! There’s another photo below without the belt.
And a few before and after photos.
And a full frontal view with the belt….
… and a final shot here.
I think I like it better with the belt. What do you think? I wore it to work last week and when I told people that it had been a men’s shirt, they couldn’t believe it. I showed them the before pictures and they were amazed.
To see other refashion projects, use the hashtags #therefashioners2015 #therefashioners #refashfest #getshirty. Ceck out the official Pinterest board for The Refashioners 2015 and see some lovely tops and dresses. And it’s not too late to enter the Refashioners 2015 contest! You have until Sunday, Sept. 27 to submit your project. See the rules (and prizes!) here.
Last but not least, if you’d like to be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Stylish Remakes, just comment below by September 30, 11:59 pm, Pacific (California time). UPDATE: This giveaway is open to everyone around the world. Tuttle Publishing will be shipping it so if you win and live outside the United States, you’ll just need to give me your address and phone number for the customs form.
If you don’t want to be entered, just say, don’t enter me. Have you done any refashioning? What did you make?
Thanks so much for visiting and happy sewing!