This year I decided to get involved with The Refashioners challenge for the first time. Hosted by Portia Lawrie of Makery, the challenge prompts an opportunity to refashion something old into something new, and this year the theme was suits.
Having seen Portia's talk at The Sewing Weekender earlier this year, I couldn't not get involved. Her enthusiasm for refashioning is infectious and, as a serial make it from scratch girl, I thought i'd push myself to have a go.
Now this is the first time that I have attempted a proper refashion and I can honestly say that I found this one of the most challenging projects yet. In fact for a while I thought about scrapping the whole thing and calling it quits! Nevertheless I perservered and, although i'm not 100% happy with the result, I feel that the process alone makes this project blog worthy. I have learnt a multitude of things, not least patience, and I also think it's important to share the not-so-great with the successes!
So here goes. Notes from the field, warts and all:
The suit(s): The skirt was compiled from a two piece pinstripe suit and a single grey jacket. The suit was purchased purely based on the fact that it was made by 'Gordon Bennett' (for real!), and the grey jacket because it was a whopping £1! The fabric composition is nothing special mainly because I didn't trust myself enough to make my first refashion a wool massacre.
The planning phase: the idea came to me in a flash. I wanted to make a paneled shift dress combining the two different suitings and then somehow working the buttons in. You may have noticed from the pictures above that this was not the result. Yes, I had to change my plan. To my disappointment, the pattern that had initially sprung to mind was a free pattern that I received with a sewing magazine and when I settled down a few weeks later to cut it out, I realised that it was not in my size and therefore sadly not suitable. ('SUITable'... Sorry.)
So it was back to the drawing board and I'm actually quite glad it was because it encouraged me to work with what I had rather than to create something completely new. That's when the idea of using the front panels of the jackets as a crossover skirt came into play. The idea of sewing the buttons along the front came later. Well actually, they were already there. It was a gift!
The pattern: Through sheer lack of imagination and a hankering to use a pattern that I was familiar with, I reached for the skirt part of the Vogue 8766 pattern that I used in my last dress project (find it here).
Suit deconstruction: unpicking a suit is an absolute nightmare. They were not made to be taken apart that's for sure, which only goes to show just how much work there is in a tailored suit.
The making process: having deconstructed the suit I was able to draft my pattern pieces, ensuring that I kept the front panels in tact to use on the crossover part of the skirt. I also decided that I wanted to keep the back trouser pocket as another nod to its original form (I'm still not sure about this bit). I then cut out a separate lining and stitched it all together. This part was relatively simple.
The fit: Ok so here's my reservation with the finished product. I'm not all that happy with the fit. If I were to do this project again, or if I had the energy to adjust it, I think I would add in a separate waistband and fit it a little higher on my waist. I would also taper the skirt around my hips and take it in towards the knees.
The finished product: I was adamant that I wanted to create something I would actually wear. Feeling a little despondent, I'm sorry to say that I'm not sure whether I will or not, despite having a fairly corporate job. Perhaps it's just that post-make 'I need to step away from this garment to rekindle the love' phase. Or perhaps I genuinely wont wear it. I'm not sure yet. Maybe I'll revisit the fitting at some stage and feel much happier.
In any case, what I do know is that this project was a learning curve. The very act of deconstructing a garment provides the opportunity to learn something from finish to start as opposed to the usual start to finish. The new perspective gave me a new way of approaching a project with a fresh sense of creativity. One thing is certainly for sure, I will be looking at suits with a whole new level of appreciation from now on!
Big thanks to Portia Lawrie for hosting! I'm so pleased I found the nerve to take part this year and am already looking forward to the next time.