For the uninitiated, the refashioners is a yearly event/competition hosted by the charming (and very persuasive) Portia Lawrie.
Its focus is on giving old, unworn, or unloved garments a new lease on life through the art of refashioning.
This bonanza of garment Frankensteining kicks of with a series of hors-compétition makes, aimed at getting the creative juices flowing. And just like last year, I got asked to be one of those warm-up acts.
Before I talk a bit about how it went, here’s some pictures of what I made:
The male romper lobby
Last year, the theme was jeans, this year it’s suits. And from the moment I shared that snippet of info with a handful of friends, they’ve conspiring to get me to make a male romper.
With friends like that, who needs enemies.
How I got to zebra
The first thing I did was limit my options. Too much choice tends to paralize.
I decided to not only respect the suit theme with regards to the source material, but also concerning the techniques involved. Making a suit, and especially jacket construction, is a fine art and I wanted that to be part of my project.
So, no messenger bags or (dare I say it) shoes out of recycled suits, I wanted to make a jacket.
The problem is that suits are rather challenging to refashion. There’s just not a lot of large pieces of pristine fabric to work with.
In addition, I’m really tall so there is simply no way I can salvage enough fabric form a suit to make a new jacket without having to sew a bunch of scraps together.
I was worried that this sort of patchwork jacket was going to look super hobo. But since I don’t really have any other option to make a jacket, I started thinking about what sort of patchwork would be most acceptable.
And then one day in the shower it hit me: zebra! If I could find a black and a white suit, I could cut them into stripes and join those together to form the pattern parts I needed. If it was going to be patchwork, I might as well embrace it, right?
The Blake Blazer pattern
My first idea was to make a jacket in muslin, draw zebra stripes on it, take it apart, cut out the stripes, and use that as my pattern. But I was worried this process would not be precise enough.
Also, what pattern would I use to make the jacket in the first place? I don’t really use patterns that I haven’t designed myself because I’m more of an uphill ice-skating kinda guy.
So, I set out to design the Blake Blazer. It’s a jacket/sportscoat pattern that I initially hoped to release with this post, but you’re going to have to give me some more time for that.
To get those zebra stripes as precise as possible, I decided to add the stripes to the pattern. This way, I could make sure they would match and whenever they don’t in the jacket, I’ve got my own shoddy workmanship to blame.
Also, for this project, I decided to make it a bit of a cropped look because I was worried I wouldn’t have enough fabric to work with.
Finding suits to refashion
With my pattern sorted, I started looking into the source material for my make. As it happens, I have a cardboard box full of old and unloved suits that’s still in storage since my last move.
I’ve always intended to take these apart to learn from their construction so this was the perfect opportunity.
I have two black suits to choose from, but absolutely no white suits. So I hit the thriftstores only to discover that white suits are a bit of a rarity.
I was unable to find any white suit even though I visited 8 different thrift stores. To make matters worse, I couldn’t even find a white suit in any of the second hand stores I visited with one exception: I found a white suit in a second hand store, but it was 200 euro.
Apart from the fact that I’m not made of money, I don’t think buying a 200 euro second hand suit only to rip it apart is much in line with the spirit of the refashioners.
I briefly contemplated a different colour combination, but nobody is waiting for a black and navy zebra.
Fortunately, the rules of the refashioners are that at least 50% of your make should be recycled suits. Apart from that, you do what you want.
So, by making the black stripes dominant, making the entire facing out of black, and recycling the inner parts of the suit (think canvas, shouler padding, buttons and so on) I would have no problem reaching that 50% treshold.
So, true to the thrifty spirit of refashioners, I picked up some white fabric in the haberdasher that was 4 euro per meter. Something that I would soon regret as I tried to make this piece of glorified plastic play nice with the wool of the black suit.
Putting it all together
I wanted the zebra stripes to look like a real zebra, so no straight lines. I addition, I noticed that a zebra’s stripes don’t continue on his back and belly but sort of a run before they hit the center. I wanted to replicate that look, and lived to regret it.
I ended up having to hand baste all the different parts together. This jacket’s outer shell is made up of 93 different scraps and pieces that are all puzzled together.
In addition, I had to squeeze all the new parts out of the old suit parts, which meant that in some cases I was left with as little as a few mm of seam allowance.
Suffice to say, it was stressful. And after I had puzzled together the initial parts, I still had to – you know – make a jacket. Which was kinda challenging with all that stripe matching I needed to do.
I ran out of time to add the lining, but part of me feels it would be a shame to cover up the insanity that is the inside of the jacket.
And I’m not entirely pleased with the collar. I had made one muslin test garment, but now that I’ve made the real thing, I am going to go back to the pattern and make some tweaks before releasing it.
In the meanwhile, enjoy some more pictures of the jacket in this Flickr set.
Now it’s your turn
So this is it, my contribution for The Refasioners 2017. I hope I was able to inspire you for some refashioning of your own. If nothing else, maybe it was a good reminder of what not to try ;)
To stay up to date with The Refashioners 2017, see all the other inspiring refashions AND find out how you could win an amazing prize go to: www.makery.uk/the-refashioners/