Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Refashioners 2015 - Part 2

After the success of my first shirt refashion, I decided to have a go at another one.


I bought this very soft red shirt from The British Heart Foundation. It is really big so I thought it would give me a lot of options.


This week my parcel arrived from Megan Nielsen for her Darling Ranges, so I decided to try to use the blouse pattern as a starting point for this refashion.


I have realised that whilst many people just start cutting up their shirts and are then struck with inspiration, I have to have a plan and a reasonable idea that it will work before I can make a start. This is probably the architect in me!


I deconstructed the shirt as a starting point and placed my pattern pieces on the flat fabric. I tried to keep the front pocket but the positioning of it was all wrong once I had cut the pieces, so it had to be unpicked. Luckily the fabric steams like a dream, so the marks from the pocket are not very noticeable and should disappear more after a wash. I had to pleat the front pattern piece a little to reduce its width and enable it to fit on the shirt front. I also folded the pattern at the front button placket and lined up the edge with the existing button placket on the shirt fronts. I overlayed the buttonhole markings on the actual buttons and buttonholes. This was partly due to not having enough width across the shirt front and partly to save time and reuse as many of the existing shirt features as possible.


With the sleeves, I decided to reuse the existing hems. This allowed me to cut the sleeves to the length shown in the pattern and not have to shorten them.


I used the Megan Nielsen app when constructing this and found it really useful. The pattern instructions are the same as the printed ones, but the direct links to extra tutorials saves time when trying to get extra help on a technique.


This was the first time I had ever set in sleeves, and Megan's clear explanation made it easy to understand the process. I'm quite pleased with how they worked out. There are a couple of little puckers at the top, but overall not too shabby for a first attempt I don't think!


I had to improvise a little for the neck facing, as the button placket was pre-completed so I couldn't follow the instructions here. I used a pre-made bias tape as there was it enough fabric left for self-made. After sewing it on I folded the ends over and top stitched down from the right side. It is not as neat as I would hope, but I just didn't have time to redo it. I swapped the original beige buttons for some white ones to brighten it up, but I retained the original buttonholes.

This is the finished article and I'm pretty chuffed with the end result. It is the first blouse I have made and the colour is great for the turning weather here. We have had to put the heating on this week because it has been so chilly, so this soft red blouse is very cheering.


I absolutely loved my first experience using a Megan Nielsen pattern. I found it easy and straightforward and think it was perfect for me to learn a couple of new techniques. I have already chosen some actual fabric (not a previous garment!) to make another so that I can do the proper button placket. It is this drapey floral fabric, I think it will work well for my next version. I also want to have a go at the dress option, so I am going hunting for the perfect winter fabric... Any ideas?




Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Refashioners 2015 - Part 1

So, I'm taking a short break from my analysis of constructing the perfect capsule wardrobe to get involved with this years Refashioners project.

There has been a lot of involvement this year, with so many great sewists joining in and blogging their refashions.


I thought I would start out with something simple. This is the first time my sewing machine has been out since Stanley was born (he's only 3 months old so I don't think I'm doing too badly). It has been a bit of a challenge finding the time to get this completed, as he is not one for napping during the day (or for being put down!)


I bought this great shirt from my local British Heart Foundation shop. This is a charity that I regularly support, having lost both grandmothers this year to heart problems.

The fabric is a blue and white striped cotton. The great thing about using existing clothes as a starting point is that the fabric is already pre washed and is soft and manageable.


The pattern I decided to use is Marilla Walker's Ilsley Skirt. This pattern is offered for free on Marilla's blog. It is the first time I had used one of Marilla's patterns and overall I thought it was excellent. In fact, I've already planned my next one!


I had to make some slight adjustments to the pattern to get the pieces to fit within the fabric available. I slightly curved the side seams at the back as there wasn't enough width at the top due to the armholes. Unfortunately this means that I can no longer get the skirt over my hips and it has to be put on over my head! I also removed the front pocket of the shirt so there are some slight markings on the front of the skirt where the pocket sat, but I think this is a nice reminder of the origin of the garment.



The waistband is cut against the grain, as there wasn't enough fabric to cut it on grain, and I still needed to create a centre back seam and it is a little slimmer than the pattern suggests.


I stitched down the button placket to prevent any unwanted gaping and help the skirt to hang better.


I thought that the pattern was well drafted with clear instructions. However, unless you already have an understanding of garment construction and sewing techniques, this pattern would not be suitable as there are no diagrams or illustrations. The construction sequence is great, the insides are very clean and I didn't need to do any hand sewing!


If you download the pattern and like it, make sure to donate to Marilla's chosen charity here. This refashion has turned into a charitable double whammy, with ecological upcycling and economical fabric choice. Overall a win-win combination!


Apologies for there being no photos of me wearing this, I will add them as soon as we get some decent weather and I can go outside to take photos!


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Defining a Core Style

I think it is very hard to define a core style, so taking queues from the second exercise of Colette's wardrobe architect series, I am gathering a range of images that attempt to summarise my core style.

I have chosen some celebrities who's style I like. This isn't to say I want to dress just like them, but I can take elements of the way they put themselves together and think about these things when creating a wardrobe for myself.

Emma stone has a nice casual style, she always looks well turned out. Skinny jeans with shirts and jumpers seem to be her wardrobe staples. This look is young and slightly preppy, which I like.


Alexa Chung is an international style icon for a good reason, she mixes feminine style with practicality and wearability.

Carey Mulligan dresses very simply, using good fabrics and shapes.

Taylor Swift has a casual style that is very polished. She accentuates her best features very well (her endless legs) and dresses to show them off.

All of these celebrities dress in a simple way, without added bling, patterns, accessories. They mix practicality with style and do not dress too girly, even though their style is elegant and feminine. The style that I would like from my wardrobe is relaxed, smart, elegant, simple and comfortable.

Things I have noticed from studying the style of these celebrities:
- they are all wearing collars
- there is not much printed fabric used
- they look comfortable
- the clothing suits their body shapes
- blue and black are key wardrobe staples

This is just a small part of the exercise, but felt like the easiest place to start. The next step will be gathering a range of images and words that summarise my style.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Making Style More Personal

Following the starting points for 'architecting' a wardrobe from the Colette Blog, the first step is thinking about making style more personal. Through exploring the following areas we can begin to think about what makes us who we are, and how that can be reflected in our personal style:


I was a tall child and grew upwards quickly. This meant that even as a teenager I hardly ever had trousers that met my ankles. Out of necessity I began to customise my clothes from a young age - I would make trousers and jeans that were too short into cropped trousers or add a band of different fabric to the hem to make them longer. Jeans often were turned into skirts too and straight leg jeans were given triangles of fabric at the leg seam to turn them into flares. This was because my parents did not have the money to buy me the clothes that I wanted and I was resourceful enough to try to create them myself. The first pair of trousers I can remember customising was when I was about 10, they were my favourite cargo trousers that I had got too tall for, so I cropped them to just below knee length and added some silver ribbon to the hem. Initially I used my mum's sewing machine, but my grandma bought me my first machine (second hand from one of her friends - a 1970s Singer) when I was 10 or 11. I kept this for about 15 years till I eventually upgraded to a better secondhand machine.


I'm not a religious person, but I think I am a moral one. My philosophy is that we should try to protect the things that we value, like relationships, health and nature. By being more involved in creating and sustaining these things I hope that it can deepen my appreciation of them.


I come from a family where the culture is to 'make do and mend'. This verges on hoarding. Items are repurposed and recycled, kept in case they become useful in the future. Whilst there are benefits to this attitude and it saves unnecessarily discarding things, it does lead to a lot of clutter. I want to be able to separate the truly useful from the rubbish, the things that I like and enjoy from those which no longer have any use or value to me.


I have never felt like I belong to any kind of community. This is partly due to having moved around a lot when I was growing up and partly due to my own painfully shy nature. Having recently moved to a town where I do not know a single person, I am working hard to join new groups and try to become part of a community. I think as a nation, our lives are so different to how they were 60 years ago that the meaning of community for us has to change. People no longer spend all their lives in the same town but move for work and education. Community can be a shared interest rather than a traditional location-based group.


I have always been an indoorsy kind of girl, preferring a good book and a box of chocolates to a run in the rain. This has changed since having a baby and I like to get out of the house whenever I get the opportunity. Clothes need to be comfortable now, above anything else, and capable of being worn out if I fancy nipping out quickly.


Living in the UK means that I have always been a fan of layering - our climate almost demands it. The weather can change so quickly, requiring layers to be taken off or put on. Layering also means that clothes do not have to be worn for only a few months of the year, but can be transitional and multi-seasonal.


I have never been one of those people who feels comfortable with their body, but I am getting better at appreciating it. I first started to feel good about it when I achieved my black belt in Tae Kwon-do, aged 17. I felt strong and powerful and fit. Having a baby gave me a similar feeling of pride, though my body and fitness were at completely the opposite end of the scale. We are not very good in western society at accepting our different shapes and sizes. Part of the reason I have so many ill fitting clothes is that I often have refused to accept that this is the way my body is and I have almost willed it to change to fit the clothes I have bought (to no avail!)

Friday, 21 August 2015

Welcome to The Wardrobe Architect

I decided to start this blog about the revitalisation of my wardrobe after reading about the wardrobe architect movement on the Colette blog. I started reading this series when I was pregnant, and since having my baby boy and starting maternity leave, I decided that it was a good time for a style overhaul.

I've attempted to succinctly list the reasons behind my wardrobe overhaul below:

1 - change in priorities
I used to be very attached to all my belongings, with clothes holding sentimental value for me. However, since having a baby, material possessions seem much less important. I feel I should embrace this new found carelessness and de-clutter, which brings me onto the second point...

2 - requirement to clear out some stuff
I live in a small terraced house with my husband and baby boy. Our spare room has a large built in wardrobe, our 'overflow' wardrobe. The need to turn this into a proper bedroom for our little boy means that the wardrobe has to be ripped out and the contents will be displaced. Rather than cramp our master bedroom with a second wardrobe, the sensible option seemed to be to get rid of some of our surplus clothing. If it hasn't been worn for 18 months, it's going.

3 - changing style
Another reason why it feels easier to have a clear out is that my style has changed. Since finishing my degree I have fewer nights out (actually none since having a baby!), which means I require fewer pairs of heels, fewer dressy tops and skirts, etc etc.

4 - too many clothes that are ill fitting
Whilst shopping with friends I inevitably got caught out by buying things that they like, that suit their shape and style rather than my own. This has resulted in a disjointed selection of clothing that is ill fitting in many senses.

5 - unsuitability of many clothes for nursing / parenthood
I am coming to the realisation that my tummy will never go back to its pre-pregnancy state, and I'm completely fine with this. My body has done an amazing thing by nurturing our beautiful baby, and the stretch marks are a reminder of how wonderful it was to be pregnant and how lucky I feel to have been able to have the experience. Tight t-shirts, low rise jeans and short shorts now seem uncomfortable and unflattering. Plus as I am breastfeeding, and intend to continue for several months, I require clothes that facilitate this easily. 

6 - desire to make my own clothes, tailored to my needs
This point summarises all the above points really. By making my own wardrobe of specifically crafted garments, I can ensure that the fit is perfect, the fabric suits both me and the style of the garment, and that my wardrobe looks like it all belongs to the same person.

7 - discontentment with our throw-away society
The introduction of 'cheap and cheerful' to our clothing market is not a positive thing in my opinion. As a society we buy too many cheap items of clothing that are not intended to last, that wash and wear badly, and that ultimately end up in landfill. The origin of these items is also questionable and brings into play the ethics of fair trade.

This blog will follow my journey through the process of cutting down my wardrobe to some key staples, and making clothing that is right for me, my life now and my changing needs.