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A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Dior Bar Suit – Hat Refashion

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

This is my third and final blog post about my outfit for the Refashioners 2018, which was inspired by Dior’s Bar suit, focusing on the process of refashioning a hat.

A number of hats were paired with the Bar suit when it was shown in the 50s, and in photographs since, but I wanted to recreate the hat from the photo which inspired this refashion (more info in my original blog post).

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

The inspiration hat was made of straw, and seemingly had a flat circular area at the top, and a wide, slightly curved brim. Given the ‘basket’ style of the hat, I decided that my best bet for a second hand material for refashioning was a woven bowl.

I spotted the bowl above in the window of a charity shop while on holiday with my family in Dorset and decided to give it a try. You can see from the images above that the original bowl was too large, flat, multi-coloured, and also far, far too heavy, to be used as a hat without refashioning.

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

Once home from Dorset, I took a stitch-unpicker to the bowl. A stitch-unpicker was the ideal tool, but due to the thickness of the material I did break at least five before I finished unravelling it. The trick to not breaking the stitch-unpicker was to keep it as flat as possible against the side of the bowl, but it was easy to forget, lift it up slightly and snap the blade.

As you can see in the photos above and below, the bowl consisted of long strands (of straw or similar) which were bound into a bowl shape with lots of small curls of raffia (or similar material). I cut through and removed the curls, released the long strands and loosely tied these together, until I reached a point where I had a small circular base remaining which I thought would serve as the top of the hat.

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

With the bowl sufficiently deconstructed, I bound the long strands with garden twine to give structure and create a long curved material which would form my hat. I then threaded more twine through a knitters needle and used it to sew (through the existing twine) the hat together.

After that, it was just a matter of trying the hat on and altering accordingly; I made a number of tweaks before I was happy with it, including reducing the circumference of the flat circular top of the hat, and removing quite a bit of depth from the bottom.

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

Now that we’re back from photographing the outfit in Paris (photos below), I have put the hat back to work as a bowl (which it still works as, thanks to the flat base)! The jacket and skirt fit into my daily wardrobe, and the shoes and petticoat will also be worn although less frequently. I’m pleased that I was able to make a dramatic outfit, but also that it consisted of components which will get regular use.

Thanks again to Portia for inspiring and challenging us through the Refashioners series

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

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Dior Bar Suit – Jacket Refashion

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

I wanted to go into more detail on the process of creating a Bar suit jacket as part of my contribution to The Refashioners 2018.

As mentioned previously, my starting point was a second-hand men’s suit jacket purchased in a local charity shop. The jacket appealed as it seemed to be a nice quality, and had labels inside stating that it was made in the UK from British wool. Clearly it differs from the inspiration in terms of both colour and material (the original Bar jacket was made in silk), but I thought a wool jacket would make for a more wearable end result.

The Refashioners Pre-Refashion Men's Suit

The Refashioners Pre-Refashion Men's Suit

Although the original jacket looks huge on me, I had very little excess fabric to play with, so used some blue tweed British wool from my stash (purchased from Beyond Measure) for the contrast side panels and collar. Given that the original suit was made from British wool, I thought that this would be a suitable pairing and also add some interest in terms of colour and texture. I do think the end result looks like a very British interpretation of the Bar jacket, possibly due to the tweed!

In order to achieve the Bar jacket shaping I used Gertie’s Butterick pattern #B5962 as my starting point. A word of caution for anyone interested in my thoughts on this pattern, because I was working with an existing jacket, as opposed to fabric, there were lots of patterns pieces I didn’t use (including the collar, facing and lining pieces), and there were other pieces (i.e. the jacket front) where I only used the pattern pieces to help estimate where to cut or add shaping.

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

I did find that the B5962 pattern contains a lot of ease and I wonder whether Butterick included a standard outerwear level of ease, when a very close fit is clearly needed for this style. Based on my measurements, I originally graded between sizes 10 (bust) and 12 (waist/hip), however it turned out huge so I went back and reduced the top of the jacket (down to the waist line) to a size 8, grading to a 12 below the waist for added volume in the ‘peplum’ section. I also found the shoulders too wide on me so trimmed off 1.5 cm at the sleeve head, grading down to 1cm. I still think there is a little too much ease in the centre back, but I was way too far along to remove this before I noticed.

I managed to retain quite a few features of the original men’s jacket. For the jacket fronts, I used the B5962 pattern to estimate where to cut the inside seam, armhole and shoulder seam, plus where to add shaping – meaning I retained the original hem and front, including buttons, buttonholes and part of the collar. Similarly I retained the existing hem on the back of the jacket (including the back vent), and on the sleeves. The buttons on the sleeve are original, and amazingly I managed to identically match the original buttons on the front (in John Lewis) to increase the number of buttons from two to six. I was initially intending to retain the original collar but decided it looked a little bit dull, so retained the sections on the jacket front and used the remainder of original collar to cut a new version in blue tweed.

The Refashioners 2018 Outfit in Progress

An awful lot of the time I spent on this jacket was spent on the insides – determining where to add, and where to remove, interfacing and padding. The jacket fronts were already backed with a lightweight fusible interfacing, but strangely the back wasn’t. I added a similar weight interfacing to the back of the jacket, and a heavier weight on the added blue tweed sections, since the tweed was much drapier than the original jacket fabric. I removed strips of canvas which were shaping the original collar and neckline, added shoulder pads, and I added padding (thinsulate, since that is what I already had in my stash) to the peplum section of the jacket to try and add body.

Gertie’s B5962 pattern attempts to replicate the Bar silhouette through a combination of long darts, and through the use of side panels. Having studied images of Dior Bar jackets, I believe that each jacket front is actually constructed of two panels, and I think these are needed to create the really dramatic Bar silhouette (the B5962 pattern uses darts in a similar position instead). There are less images online of the back of the Bar jacket (some good images here), but it also appears to be constructed from multiple panels (the B5962 back is constructed from two). It would have been difficult to retain as much of the original jacket if I had been attempting to recreate the Bar jacket more closely, but I would be interested to try a more faithful recreation at some point.

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

I had read online that hip padding would have been worn under the New Look outfits, to create the required shaping at the hips (see here for a video and here for a related sewing pattern). I decided to try and create some hip padding the evening before we left for Paris, and visited the £1 Shop to see what suitable supplies they might have! I found a pack of three sponges for £1, strung them together on some yarn (I sewed through the middle of each sponge), and tied it around my hips. I’m wearing my ‘hip padding’ in the pictures below (outside the Dior building with the blue door). You can see it does create a more exaggerated peplum effect, but I decided I preferred the silhouette without so I’m not wearing it in the other images. P.S. these images outside Dior (above and below) were taken around the original Dior studio at 30 Avenue Montaigne, founded by Christian Dior in the 1940s.

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

This outfit has occupied almost all of my sewing time for the last month, and I’m really proud of what I achieved, both in terms of overall effect and my ability to bring my plans to life. I definitely think that basic refashioning (like the skirt, which I simply reduced in length) makes for a quick, satisfying sewing project, well suited to a beginner. However, I think that dramatically altering a garment (like the jacket in my refashion) can be significantly more complex and time consuming than sewing with fabric. This type of refashioning makes for an interesting challenge, but I don’t think I would have completed this jacket with less years of sewing experience under my belt. It’s definitely a indication, to myself, that my sewing skills have reached a point where I am able to interpret what isn’t working, and how I might resolve it, as opposed to needing to rely solely on instructions (although nice simple instructions are still very nice!).

I have one further post to share with you about this outfit, about how I made my hat.

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018


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Refashioners Shirt Dress

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Just in time, prior to the deadline, here’s my refashioners 2015 make. It’s photographed here at Les Invalides in Paris

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

The top half of the dress is refashioned from a man’s shirt found in the Coventry British Heart Foundation shop, which is my favourite Coventry charity shop and a favourite place to visit during my lunch break.

Shirt Refashion - Before

To create the top of the dress, I retained a central panel including the collar and button placket, and then attached side panels and cuffs using fabric cut from the sleeves. You can see the three pieces I cut for each of the side panels below.

Shirt Refashion - Before

There wasn’t enough fabric left to make a skirt, so I used some stash fabric gifted to me ages ago by Ingrid. Given that Ingrid was one of this year’s featured refashioners I thought it was pretty appropriate;) To make the skirt I just cut a large rectangle of fabric and gathered it to fit the top part of the dress. I attached a row of elastic at the waist band to create a bit of definition.

Since it was pretty windy and bright at Les Invalides, I took a few extra photos in my garden at home.

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

When I cut the central panel of the dress I retained half the pocket! Not necessarily that functional (although who actually uses their breast pocket?), but I think it’s pretty cute. I replaced the original shirt buttons with ceramic buttons made by a member of my Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers Guild.

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

I have another couple of shirts waiting for a refashion; I just need to decide what to try next!


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#SewSolidarity – Sashiko Style Stitches on a Denim Skirt

“Cleaning, caring and mending seem like nothing more than good manners when you think about the endeavour that has gone into constructing even the most simple of pieces” – Lucy Siegle, ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?’

For #SewSolidarity, and in advance of Fashion Revolution Day tomorrow, I customised this RTW Gap skirt.

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches

I bought the skirt in a local charity shop while browsing on my lunch break. The skirt was still in good condition and a pretty good fit with the addition of a belt, so I decided not to drastically alter it.

Instead, I decided to embellish the skirt with some sashiko-style stitches. I used white and blue embroidery thread, as opposed to sashiko thread, as I already had some in my stash. I adopted a circular pattern on the hem of the skirt and the tops of the back pockets, and a small cross pattern on one of the front pockets.

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches

As in the Lucy Siegle quote above, we have a tendency – because RTW clothes are so cheap – to treat them as highly disposable. But, despite being cheap, a huge amount of effort goes into producing any garment. I’m trying to adopt more of a make do and mend approach to my own clothing to put that effort to best use.

I also like being able to apply a slow sewing technique (hand stitching) to a garment that would have originally have been produced very quickly. In this instance by garment workers in Turkey.

How are you guys planning to participate in Fashion Revolution Day? Ever tried sashiko?

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches


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#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt – Made By Me, Cambodian Garment Workers, & Others Unknown

Less than three weeks from the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster (and with the compensation fund still short of money needed for medical bills), this is my first refashion for TRAID’s #SewSolidarity Challenge. I’ve got a skirt to show, and I’ve also got quite a bit to say. I’d recommend you grab a tea, and perhaps a biscuit, before you begin…

This fabric started off as a dress, which I purchased second-hand in a charity shop. The original dress was too small for me, but that was fine as I wanted to use it for fabric.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

All I learnt about how the dress was made from the tag, was that it was a H&M product (H&M were one of the companies who sourced from Rana Plaza), and was ‘made’ in Cambodia. Our clothes (and our textiles) aren’t made by machines, they’re made by people. That ‘made in’ label told me that the ‘cut, make, and trim’ stage of this dresses’ lifecycle (from cutting the fabric to finishing the dress) took place in Cambodia, probably in a garment factory. Given that garment factories typically employ a production line approach for speed, the dress was probably made by a number of people; each focused on sewing a small section of the dress. The majority of garment workers are women, so I can assume the original dress was made by a number of Cambodian women.

Dress for refashioning
The original dress

I took the dress apart, unpicking the original stitches made by garment workers in Cambodia, and used the fabric to make a Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt. I used almost all of the dress to construct this skirt, with just a few small pieces going into my scraps bin. I spent a lot longer on the Ilsley Skirt than the original garment workers would have had to construct the dress – I hand-stitched the hem while sat watching a movie.

What the tag in the dress didn’t tell me, was what other countries, and people, were involved in the creation of the original dress. The ‘cut, make, and trim’ stage only represents a tiny proportion of the overall process involved in creating a textile – from cotton boll, or sheep’s fleece, or oil – and transforming that textile into an item of clothing. That wider process involves huge amounts of resources (water, chemicals, electricity, etc.), huge numbers of people (approximately 40 million people worldwide in garment construction), and huge numbers of animals (for silk, wool, leather, fur, skins).

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

As sewists and crafters, I think we are more aware of the time and labour involved in the production of a garment. As sewists, we’ll feel particular pain at the ‘virtual factory standard’ that companies have used to define the target times for garment workers to produce clothing. You think the time allowed on GBSB is bad, try 15 minutes to produce a pair of five-pocket jeans.

I also think as crafters we become more aware of the processes that underpin our hobbies, because once you become involved with a craft you start thinking about how you can get involved at earlier stages of the production process. So knitters often become spinners, and knitters and sewists become dyers and fabric designers. I think this thought process – this interest in how something is made, from beginning to end – is vital. We need to be more conscious about what it is we are buying – where it was made, who by and how.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

That’s because, currently, the processes used to produce garments – and textiles – have a hugely detrimental impact on people and the environment. This isn’t anything new – cotton production traditionally was underpinned by slavery – but globalisation, fast fashion, and the pressure for ever cheaper prices have increased the scale of production – and the associated risks. Those risks are numerous, including the effect of particles during cotton / fibre production and preparation on the respiratory system, if inadequate protection is provided, or the impact of chemicals used in textile production and dyeing on workers within factories that don’t provide adequate protection, and on the surrounding environment and population if those chemicals are not adequately disposed of and are instead allowed to pollute waterways and the air. There is also the impact on the health of garment workers of working long hours without earning a living wage, possibly in unsafe conditions. Rana Plaza wasn’t an isolated incident, many garment workers have been killed or injured at work; fires are particularly common.

Managing the textile/garment production process, and its associated risks, ethically requires investment and commitment from clothing – and textile – companies. However, the drive to produce huge volumes of textiles and garments quickly and cheaply has led to production systems where companies outsource to middlemen huge portions of the production process. In this way, companies have outsourced a lot of production risks, and costs. They’ve also outsourced a lot of the control, and visibility, of these processes. And they’ve done so in countries where workers, animals, and the environment are subject to much less protection.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

Like many sewists, I buy limited RTW clothes, but I don’t think that makes these issues any less relevant to me, given the huge global impact of these processes. Also, I do buy a lot of fabric – and many of the same issues apply to fabric production.

Each year, the Uzbekistan government transports approximately a million of it’s own citizens, including children, from their homes to serve as forced labour, picking cotton for two months during harvest time (read more here). These people are given mandatory quotas to meet and are punished or fined if they fail to meet them. As a shopper, it isn’t easy to tell if the bolls used to create a bolt of cotton originally came from Uzbekistan, but, if so, forced child labours probably picked those bolls.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

Poorly regulated factories processing and dyeing fabrics are also hugely problematic. Not only for staff provided with inadequate protection from fibres and chemicals, but also for surrounding populations. Treating the water used in dyeing to remove chemicals has a cost associated with it, so factories regularly pump untreated water into waterways. This is a huge issue in India and in China, with 1 in 4 of China’s population drinking contaminated water daily. There have been multiple incidents of rivers taking on the colour of a dye from a nearby factory, including the Caledon river being dyed indigo.

We’ve all become spoilt by cheap prices, and accustomed to spending less but buying more, but the prices are false. It isn’t possible to produce a t-shirt for £3, or a pair of jeans for £6, or probably a metre of fabric for £1, if all aspects of the production process have been managed sustainably and responsibly. Obviously a high price isn’t a guarantee that something has been produced ethically, but I’m adjusting what I expect to pay so that I don’t see £5 for a ball of wool or £10-20 for a metre of fabric as ‘expensive’.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

Obviously it isn’t easy when you pick up an item of clothing, or a bolt of fabric, to know how it was produced, but from now on I’m going to at least consider those questions, and think about the resources, people and animals involved.

Otherwise we’re validating those clothing companies who have excused their own practices by stating that consumers don’t care how their products are manufactured.

All facts referred to are courtesy of ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?’ by Lucy Siegle, which I’d hugely recommend.